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Pro Life T-Shirt Wins in Federal Lawsuit

In US District Court, a judge ruled against McSwain Union Elementary School in Merced, CA. The lawsuit against the school was filed on behalf of Tiffany Amador, by her mother Anna Amador. In 2008 an incident involving the then sixth grader resulted in the school requiring the student to take off a pro life t-shirt. The judge ruled that the school and three officials from the school violated the student’s rights, including violations to the First, Fourth and the Fourteenth Amendment.

FirstAmendment.jpgThe case was scheduled to go to trial later this month, but the school settled the claim for $50,000, without admitting any wrong doing in the case.

The T-shirt in the case portrayed several pictures of an unborn fetus in the womb, with the word “Abortion” written in capital letters across the top of the shirt. The first two pictures on the shirt portrayed an unborn child through sonographic images. The final square was black, with the word “gone” under it. The school stated that the t-shirt violated the school’s dress code.

According to the lawsuit, the student was required by a staff member to throw away her lunch and immediately report to the main office of the school. Then, according to the lawsuit, another school official grabbed the student by the arm and forcibly took her to another official’s office. She was then ordered to remove her t-shirt and to never wear it again.

The Amadors’ attorney stated that the school had done the right thing by avoiding a trial and by allowing the judgment to be entered. According to the attorney, “Student speech at all grade levels is protected by the First Amendment. With few exemptions, such as profanity and lewdness, the Constitution prohibits school officials from picking and choosing what messages they find acceptable.”

The school has since revised its dress code. The new code takes effect in the coming school year and it prohibits students from where any clothing with text or graphics, except for small school logos.