High school students forced to change out of LGBTQ pride shirts: 'We don't promote that here'

Timmy Cecil was one of the students who was told to change out of his "Queen Queer" T-shirt. (Photo: Courtesy of Jessica)
Timmy Cecil was one of the students who was told to change out of his "Queen Queer" T-shirt. (Photo: Courtesy of Jessica)

A group of high schoolers in Kentucky are speaking out against their administration after two students were forced to change out of their LGBTQ pride shirts because of claims that they violated the dress code.

According to a number of students from Martin County High School in Inez, Ky., two of their LGBTQ peers arrived to school on Friday wearing shirts that read “Queen Queer” and “Lady Lesbian” to represent their identities. However, things quickly took a turn when school staff approached the freshmen to tell them that the apparel was not appropriate.

“The administrators told them that they had to change because the shirts were a ‘disruption’ and that ‘we don’t promote that here,’” a student who asked to go by the pseudonym Jessica to prevent further disciplinary action tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

Now, Jessica and other allies in the junior and senior classes are banning together to fight on behalf of the LGBTQ students who are trying to earn respect and tolerance within their school community. One of the students who wore a shirt hasn’t even come out to their family.

“I cannot name the students wearing the shirts because some of them are not out to their families and would like to stay private, but they still want to help,” a senior named Lilly Vance says.

Jessica adds, “After I was told about the situation I immediately started figuring out what I could do to correct the situation.”

Vance, Jessica and another student going by the pseudonym Stacy tell Yahoo Lifestyle that they all were extremely upset with the initial explanation given to their peers about why they were being forced to change their shirts. But when Jessica and Stacy went directly to the school’s principal to speak with her about the issue on Monday, they received another disappointing response.

“The administrators stated to us that [students] were forced to change because [administrators] were ‘worried for the dangers of the students, and did not want to hear of any students coming back saying they were being bullied. That school was not a place for children to express their sexual orientation,” Stacy says of the conversation. “We were told multiple times that displaying words of that manner [was] not appropriate.”

She went on to say that the principal argued that the shirts violated a section of the dress code that calls for “no harmful words or terms.” When Jessica and Stacy pressed for more resources for LGBTQ students within the school — like its own Gay-Straight Alliance — so that the words “queer” and “lesbian” wouldn’t be viewed as controversial, they were allegedly shut down.

“It was basically just [the principal] saying that we don’t need to advertise our orientations on a big billboard because that puts a target on us for bullying,” Jessica shares. “She also said we didn’t need a GSA because we already know who our friends are that support us.”

Jessica even alleged that the principal outed some LGBTQ students to their parents when calling to warn about a possible walkout which never took place.

Beyond a safe space for LGBTQ students, the group just wants fair and equal treatment.

“We want the administration to really treat others equally because we want the ability to express our identities just like the students who wear Trump apparel, religious apparel or the Confederate flag. I know we are in a rural, Christian-Republican community, but we want tolerance. Our shirts aren’t hurting anyone. It’s unfair that because the staff have certain beliefs, they treat students differently and scare them into not speaking out,” Jessica says. “We just want justice.”

Martin County Schools didn’t respond to Yahoo Lifestyle’s request for comment. However, Superintendent Larry James told local Kentucky station WYMT that “any miscommunication has been resolved. We definitely do not want any of our students to feel like they are discriminated against.”

Vance says that students feeling supported is the very reason she’s so passionate about the issue.

“All I want from this is for the younger students at MCHS to know that if they feel discriminated against, that they have a voice and they can speak up and be heard. I hope the administration sees their wrongdoing and corrects it so that the students of their school can feel safe in a place that should already feel safe for students,” she says.

“I hope we are allowed to establish a Gay-Straight Alliance within our school so that the LGBTQ students have a place to feel safe and accepted and loved,” Stacy adds, “in case they don’t have that type of support system at home.”

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