Drew Zahn is a WND news editor who cut his journalist teeth as a member of the award-winning staff of Leadership, Christianity Today's professional journal for church leaders. A former pastor, he is the editor of seven books, including Movie-Based Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching, which sparked his ongoing love affair with film and his weekly WND column, "Popcorn and a (world)view."More ↓Less ↑
A federal judge in Minnesota signed an injunction telling a sixth-grader’s school that it cannot stop him from wearing pro-life T-shirts to class.
As WND reported, 12-year-old “K.B.” of Hutchinson, Minn., committed in April to wearing T-shirts with a pro-life message to his middle school every day for a month.
According to the boy’s attorney, however, his principal and teachers told K.B. – so identified because of his age – not to wear the T-shirts, publicly singled him out for ridicule in front of his schoolmates, removed him from class, sent him to the principal’s office, forced him to turn his pro-life T-shirt inside out, and threatened him with suspension if he did not stop wearing the offending shirts.
With the help of the Thomas More Law Center, a non-profit law firm that provides representation without charge to defend Christian beliefs in the public square, K.B. filed a federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court.
Following the court victory, Richard Thompson, president of the Law Center, commented, “This young Christian was not afraid to stand up for his pro-life beliefs despite ridicule and threats from school officials. We are pleased we were able to vindicate his constitutional rights.”
K.B. began his T-shirt mission in honor of April 29 being designated “National Pro-Life T-shirt Day” by the American Life League, a group that calls itself the “largest grass-roots Catholic pro-life organization in the United States.”
K.B. took it a step further in opting to wear his T-shirts – sometime inside-out as demanded – for a month.
The shirts themselves, all produced by the American Life League, displayed photos of unborn babies and pro-life messages. One shirt read, “Abortion: Growing, Growing, Gone,” a second read, “What part of abortion don’t you understand?” and the third read, “Never Known – Not Forgotten” on the front with “47,000,000 babies aborted 1973-2008″ printed on the back.
One of the T-shirts from the American Life League
K.B. reported he was first confronted April 2 by a teacher saying that the shirt “could be offensive.” On April 4 he was sent to the principal’s office because, his teacher said, the shirt was “inappropriate for class.” In mid-April, K.B.’s mother reports, the school principal told her in a phone conversation that the shirts were forbidden because they had become a distraction and “some of the kids were starting to ask questions.” On April 25 K.B. was threatened with in-school suspension.
When April 29 arrived, the day designated as “National Pro-Life T-shirt Day,” the school principal called K.B.’s homeroom and ordered the boy to his office. “Why do you keep wearing those shirts when you know that they annoy me?” the principal allegedly asked.
Throughout that day, K.B. was singled out by his teachers, their displeasure with him and with his shirts made publicly clear.
Hutchinson school district policy specifically states that schools are not to “abridge the rights of students to express political, religious, philosophical, or similar opinions by wearing apparel on which messages are stated.”
“We allow (a slogan on a T-shirt) as long as it doesn’t interrupt or disrupt the educational process,” the school’s superintendent told the Student Press Law Center. “It’s not necessarily the message, but if it’s offensive or if it disrupts the (educational) process.”
K.B. and his mother, Jeanne Ibbitson, claim that the shirts contain no offensive material and if there’s been any disruption in the educational process, it’s come from teachers objecting to the message.
She praised her son for standing for his convictions. “I applaud him. He is really shy. And it’s scary to stand up to people in authority,” she said. “It was hard for him to get up every day and put the T-shirt on and go to school to try and carry on his mission for the month.”
As a result of the judge’s decision, in addition to honoring a permanent injunction prohibiting the school from banning the pro-life T-shirts, K.B.’s school district agreed to pay the sixth-grader nominal damages and the Law Center $12,500 in attorney fees.
Brandon Bolling, the Law Center attorney assigned as lead counsel stated, “This is a great victory for freedom of speech and the pro-life movement.”