An "anti-bullying" initiative at a Chicago suburb high school didn't go quite how organizers had planned. And now the school board could be in for a battle that might involve hate speech, free speech, and gay pride.
This week, students in St. Charles High School were asked to wear purple shirts this week in defiance of gay bullying (dubbed "Ally Week"). On Monday, however, three students instead showed up with shirts that said "straight pride," which inlcuded a Bible verse from Leviticus advocating death as a punishment for homosexual activity.
In response, the school asked the students to black out portions of the verse. Without incidence, the students obliged. Yet the next day two other students showed up to school with homemade "Straight Pride" shirts — excluding the Biblical passage. Administrators then asked them to cover up the shirts with sweatshirts. They did.
But despite complying with administrators' requests on both occasions, over 150 Facebook users have now promised to attend next month’s Board of Education meeting "to address the 'Straight Pride' shirts some students wore this week and how the administration handled the situation," the Kane County Chronicle reports.
“We do not, as a student body, tolerate bullying and harassment happening at our school, and we want better plans in action for how to deal with situations like this,” senior Amanda Harshbarger, the creator of the Facebook event titled “SCN Students Against Bullying at CUSD 303 School Board Meeting,” told the Chronicle.
According to the board, the topic is not on the agenda but can be discussed during open comments and new business.
“People saw that as a potential threat and extremely intimidating,” Harshbarger told the Chronicle regarding the Bible verse.
She objects to how the situation was handled by administrators, who did not punish the shirt-wearing students. Rather, administrators told the students they had a right to express an opinion and belief, but said they should be sensitive to how others perceive that message.
Despite the objections, administrators are now hailing "Ally Week" as a success. "While it may have been a little bit controversial at times, the kids at North are talking about this," Jim Blaney, director of school and community relations for St. Charles Unit District 303, told the Chicago Tribune. "They are learning about people who might have a different opinion than theirs."