The T-shirts had a verse from the Gospel of John on the front: "Jesus answered I am the way and the truth and the life; no one goes to the Father except through me," and the statement, "I stand in trust with Dove Outreach Center." The students were sent home for violation of the school district's dress code when they declined to change clothes or cover their clothing.
Freedom of speech does not apply in this case, according to legal experts:
Catherine Cameron, a faculty member at the Stetson College of Law, said the school district "likely has a good leg to stand on from a First Amendment standpoint" because the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in several cases that public schools may quash speech deemed disruptive "even if it steps on the other child's free speech rights."Also, Ron Collins, a scholar with the nonprofit First Amendment Center in Washington D.C., said courts give public school officials a "significant amount of latitude" in regulating student dress that could be disruptive.
"Here, it's not only a religious expression. It's a religious expression that is hostile to other forms of religious expression."What's happened to people? Every time you turn around, it seems there is a new excuse for hate.
Saeed R. Khan, president of the Muslim Association of North Central Florida, said:
"It's pretty offensive, isn't it? Particularly in a school setting where you are trying to create an atmosphere where people are supposed to respect each other and live with each other, where we have people of every ethnicity and every religion."