INDIANAPOLIS (WANE) — The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed a lawsuit Monday on behalf of a Manchester High School student claiming the school violated his First Amendment rights back in August when he was sent home after refusing the take off a t-shirt he was wearing printed with the message, “I hope I don’t get killed today for being black.”
According to the ACLU, Dondre Eades, a junior, chose to wear the shirt to school as a way to protest systemic racism that is behind shootings that have taken place and to personalize the issue to his classmates and school.
The ACLU claims the shirt did not violate any of the rules in the school’s Student Handbook, and had not caused any disruption among his fellow students.
Back in August, Dondre Eades, told WANE 15 that the school accused him of wearing the shirt to start a fight. However, he said that wasn’t the case and none of his fellow students or teachers commented on his shirt, only the principal and vice principal. Eades was asked to change his shirt and refused, as he felt strongly that he had the right to wear the shirt and to share the message. His mother then picked him up, and he was removed from school for the remainder of the day.
According to Dawn Eades, Dondre’s mother, the school says the word “kill” is what left the principal and vice principal feeling uneasy.
Manchester Community Schools issued the following statement in August after being contacted by WANE 15:
“Manchester Community Schools supports equal treatment of all persons regardless of race. We encourage student expression on social issues in a manner that promotes positive conversation and better understanding. Any such expression that threatens to disrupt or distract other students must be addressed to ensure the safe operation of the school. Manchester Community Schools is committed to working with its students on appropriate ways to address issues of racial equality.”Dr. Teresa Gremaux, Superintendent of Manchester Community Schools
The ACLU disagrees.
“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.”
The ACLU alleges that 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.