Chris Sigler’s homemade T-shirt

An American high school student has claimed that he was assaulted by his Principal because he wore a T-shirt supporting a gay-straight alliance.

Chris Sigler, a 17-year-old student at Sequoyah High School in Tennessee, was reportedly shoved, bumped in the chest and verbally harassed by his principal last week for wearing a T-shirt in support of efforts to establish a gay-straight alliance (GSA) club on campus.

Sigler wore the homemade T-shirt to school that said “GSA: We’ve Got Your Back”. A teacher ordered Sigler to cover up the shirt in the future. Sigler, knowing he had a right to wear the shirt, wore it again, and resisted an order to remove the shirt.

Sigler says that Principal Maurice Moser then ordered all students out of the classroom, except for Sigler’s sister Jessica, who refused to leave. According to both students, Moser then grabbed Sigler’s arm, shoved him, and chest-bumped him repeatedly while asking “Who’s the big man now?”

Sigler’s mother reported that when she arrived at the school, she saw her son seated in a desk with Moser leaning over him and shouting in Sigler’s face. The Siglers filed a report about the incident with the police.

“All I want is to have a GSA at my school to help stop the bullying against gays and lesbians and their friends who support them,” Sigler said. “The shirt was a way to use my voice and show my support for the club. The way I was treated shows even more why we need a GSA here.”

In response, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Tennessee sent a letter to the school district demanding that students’ rights to free speech be protected in the classroom.

The ACLU has been assisting Sigler, in his and other students’ efforts to overcome resistance from school officials to establish a GSA. Principal Moser had previously threatened to punish students who circulated petitions about the club.

“It is totally unacceptable that a young man who was peacefully exercising his First Amendment rights would have his speech shut down by the public school principal,” said Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the ACLU of Tennessee.

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