The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana today filed a lawsuit on behalf of a student at Manchester Jr-Sr High School, against the school, claiming his First Amendment rights have been violated. In August, the student, referred to as D.E., was forced to leave school after refusing to remove a t-shirt that read, “I HOPE I DON’T GET KILLED FOR BEING BLACK TODAY.”
As a young Black man, D.E. is acutely aware of the many incidents where young Black men have been fatally shot by law enforcement officers. Following the heightened awareness and many protests against police violence over the summer, D.E. chose to wear the shirt to school as a way to protest the systemic racism that is behind these shootings and to personalize the issue to his classmates and school.
Despite the fact that D.E.’s shirt did not violate any of the rules in the school’s Student Handbook, and had not caused any disruption among his fellow students, D.E. was asked to change his shirt. D.E. refused, as he felt strongly that he had the right to wear the shirt and to share this important message. His mother then picked him up, and he was removed from school for the remainder of the day.
“Schools cannot selectively choose which social issues students can support through messages on their clothing,” said Ken Falk, legal director at the ACLU of Indiana. “Students do not lose their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse doors. The refusal of the school to allow D.E. to wear his t-shirt is a violation of his right to free speech.”
Students at Manchester Jr-Sr High School regularly wear “Blue Lives Matter” and “MAGA” apparel supporting police and President Trump, respectively, and some students wear apparel adorned with Confederate flags.
This lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, South Bend Division.