One of the nation’s premiere civil-liberties legal teams says it’s the school that’s being the bully and officials there should apologize for deliberately censoring the viewpoint of one student and humiliating him in public.
That’s from officials with Liberty Council, a non-profit litigation, education and policy organization specializing in free speech rights of students on public school campuses.
They have sent a letter to the Shawano School District in Wisconsin demanding officials apologize for their unconstitutional and “irrational” censorship and humiliation of student Brandon Wegner.
“The school officials have displayed blatant intolerance of a view on homosexuality held by many people. The school’s actions are shocking and unjustified,” said Matt Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Council.
The organization explained, “In a statement, the school ‘sincerely apologized’ – not for allowing the topic to begin with, but only for the biblical viewpoint presented by Brandon.”
“The First Amendment protects the opinions of all, including student journalists,” the organization said.
“The bullying at Shawano High School is by Supt. Todd Carlson and the school officials, not the student, Brandon Wegner,” said Staver.
“The superintendent should immediately apologize and stop the bullying.”
Liberty Council explained when Wegner, a 15-year old Shawano High School journalism student, was assigned to write on the topic.
Students from the “Introduction to Journalism” and “Advanced News Writing” classes at the Wisconsin school were asked to write opposing viewpoint articles on the topic of homosexual adoption.
Wegner wrote an argument against, while a fellow student made the case “for”.
Wegner took the assignment seriously, conducted research, and wrote his column complete with statistics, citations from experts, current state laws, and biblical references to homosexuality and sin.
His writing partner argued her case, saying that the foster system is broken, and children are in need of two parents.
Both students turned in their assignments, and the columns were printed. Not only in the Hawk’s Post, but in the local Green Bay Press Gazette as well.
But when a local resident read Wegner’s column and complained to the school district in a letter stating that the article was “hate speech” and “would cause kids to commit suicide,” district officials sprang into action.
According to attorneys now representing Wegner, he was pulled out of class for “hours of meetings” with staff and administration, told he had violated the school district “bullying” policy, and ordered, along with his class, to physically cut out his article from the school paper before being distributed, despite the fact that it had already been distributed in the community.
In a meeting without his parents present, in violation of district policy, Wegner was asked by Carlson if he “regretted” writing the column.
He told Carlson that he stood by his argument, and was promptly informed that he “had to be one of the most ignorant kids to try and argue with him about this topic.”
School officials did not respond to WND requests for comment.
Despite district policies regarding non-discrimination for religious beliefs, another policy says, “teachers and students should promote tolerance for the views and opinions of others, as well as the right of an individual to form and hold different opinions and beliefs.”
“These policies do not provide support for the district’s actions here,” Liberty Council told the district in its letter. “The actions taken by the district to censor only the religious speech of students in the district while allowing opposing viewpoints on the same topic is simply unconstitutional.”
Attorney Richard Mast wrote in the letter to the district, “Mr. Wegner was expressing his sincerely held religious views that homosexual parents should not be able to adopt.
“He wrote his article as part of a discussion involving both viewpoints on the subject of homosexual adoption. Nowhere did Mr. Wegner call for homosexuals to be killed or even name a single homosexual individual.
“He cited and quoted verses from the Bible in support of his argument, but never called for any specific actions based on those verses. No objective person could perceive Mr. Wegner’s column as a threat.”