A lesbian teen is suing a Florida school district for suspending her for participating in an event raising awareness of LGBT bullying.
Last April, Amber Hatcher, 16, requested to participate in the National Day of Silence, a gay and lesbian supporters education network (GLSEN) sponsored event.
On a day every April, students remain quiet for the entire day to raise awareness of homophobic bullying and harassment.
Nearly a month before the event, the teen asked for permission from her principal Shannon Fusco who threatened Hatcher with ‘ramifications’ if she participated.
Hatcher then approached the county school superintendent Adrian Cline, who refused to meet with her and supported the principal on her decision.
Lambda Legal, representing the teen, sent a letter reminding the school all teens had a constitutional right to observe the National Day of Silence.
Ignoring the letter, Fusco sent an email telling teachers to send any students who appeared to be observing the day to her office.
On the day, Hatcher came to school and communicated to others by dry-erase board. She was sent to the principal’s office and suspended for the day, and told to never participate in the event again.
Lambda Legal has now filed a lawsuit against the school yesterday (26 February), asking the court to prohibit the school from interfering with Hatcher’s First Amendment right to freedom of speech.
Speaking recently before the event, Hatcher says: ‘I just wanted to stand up for all the kids in my school, gay or straight, who don’t feel like they have a voice to stand up for themselves.
‘I wish my school would help me create an accepting environment for LGBT kids, not single me out for punishment.