Amber Hatcher, an openly lesbian teen, sued DeSoto County High School in Arcadia, Fla., after she was suspended by the school for wearing an anti-bullying T-shirt.
“There are many LGBT kids in my school who have been bullied and harassed and who feel unsafe,” Hatcher said, according to SouthFloridaGayNews.com. “I just wanted to stand up for all the kids in my school, gay or straight, who don’t feel like they have a voice to stand up for themselves. I wish my school would help me create an accepting environment for LGBT kids, not single me out for punishment.”
Hatcher claims in her lawsuit that she asked permission last year to observe the National Day of Silence nearly a month earlier, but the school’s principal said “peaceful protests were against District Policy.” Hatcher appealed to school district officials, but was forbidden to participate in the National Day of Silence.
The day before the National Day of Silence, the principal called Hatcher out of class to warn her of “disciplinary consequences” if she observed the National Day of Silence. The principal also called her parents to tell them their daughter was prohibited from participating.
The next day, Hatcher wore a red T-shirt with the message “DOS April 20, 2012: Shhhhh” and communicated using a dry-erase board.
The dean of students punished Hatcher with an in-school suspension.
“DeSoto County Schools is practicing the very kind of harassment and discrimination the Day of Silence is designed to address in schools,” said Dr. Eliza Byard of the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network. “By participating in the Day of Silence, students across the country are directing attention to the reality that LGBT youth experience a disproportionate amount of bullying and harassment in schools.”