DANDRIDGE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- On Thursday, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) announced it sent a letter to Jefferson Co. High School, threatening to file a federal lawsuit if school officials refuse to "stop censoring students."
The SPLC threatened to file the suit on behalf of Hannah Bradley, a Jefferson Co. senior it claims was forced to remove a name tag meant to raise awareness of anti-gay bullying.
“I only wanted to end bullying at my high school,” said Bradley, president of the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA). “School needs to be a place where everyone – regardless of their sexual orientation – feels safe. This means treating everyone with dignity and respect.”
“Students like Hannah who are courageous enough to take a stand against bullying deserve the school’s support – not censorship and condemnation,” said Alesdair Ittelson, an SPLC staff attorney.
According to the letter, Bradley and several other students wore small name tags stating their sexual orientations on October 11 in observance of National Coming Out Day and to protest anti-gay bullying.
The name tags had the word "demisexual" on them, which the SPLC described as a person who doe not experience sexual attraction unless they form a strong sexual connection.
“Displays of heterosexual orientation are ubiquitous; it is impermissible for school authorities to censor or shame non-heterosexual students for simply declaring who they are.”
The 4'9" Bradley and another student were called to the principal's office, where the SPLC says the vice-principal, who stands over six feet tall, blocked the office door while the principal loudly demanded they remove the tags. Bradley said she felt intimidated by the experience.
“Silencing Hannah and her classmates only perpetuates a silence that has been shown to lead to increased bullying and poor academic performance that affects all students – regardless of their sexual orientation,” Ittelson said.