Judge Rules In Favor Of Poway School In Anti-Gay T-Shirt Case

A federal judge has ruled in favor of Poway school officials in the case of siblings who claimed their constitutional rights were violated when one of them was pulled from class for wearing a T-shirt deriding homosexuality as "shameful."

U.S. District Court Judge John Houston on Wednesday granted the Poway Unified School District's request for a judgement in its favor on every legal claim that Kelsie Harper, 16, a junior at the high school, raised in the lawsuit.

Her brother, 18-year-old Tyler Chase Harper, who goes by his middle name, was dismissed from the lawsuit because he already has graduated from Poway High School, the judge ruled, according to the North County Times and San Diego Union-Tribune.

Houston relied on a 2006 appeals court decision in the same case to find that the school's actions did not infringe on students' rights of free speech, free exercise of religion, nor were they hostile to a particular religious viewpoint, according to the Union-Tribune.

That 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision, which centered on Poway High's dress code, is now before the U.S. Supreme Court. Justices are expected to decide in the next three weeks whether they will consider the case.

Although Wednesday’s ruling brings an end to the lawsuit at the trial court, appeals of some issues still are pending, and an appeal of Wednesday's decision to a higher court is expected.

Chase Harper was a sophomore at Poway High in April 2004 when he wore the controversial shirt to school the day after a campus group held a "Day of Silence" to promote tolerance of homosexual, bisexual and transgendered students.

Harper's shirt said "Homosexuality is shameful. Romans 1:27" on the front, and "Be ashamed. Our school has embraced what God has condemned" on the back.

He was sent to the principal's office after refusing to comply with a teacher's order to remove the shirt and was required to remain in a conference room the remainder of the day.

Chase Harper alleged in the federal lawsuit that the school district and school officials violated his constitutional rights. His younger sister was later added to the lawsuit, which alleged that she wanted to express an identical message through her speech or clothing, but was prevented from doing so because of school policies, the newspaper reported.

Print this article Back to Top