Alabama school backs down over student’s gay rights t-shirt

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A school in the US state of Alabama has backed down after telling a student she could not wear a gay rights t-shirt.

Sara Couvillon, a student at Hoover High School in Birmingham, threatened school officials with legal action when she was told not to wear the shirt for her own safety.

The 15-year-old, assisted by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), argued that she had worn the ‘Gay? Fine by me’ t-shirt frequently and had never experienced harassment or threats.

The SPLC wrote to the school and the city’s education board to warn they could face a federal lawsuit. School administrators quickly backed down.

Sara said: “I’m very relieved and I feel like this is a major victory for the LGBT community in Alabama. This was not just about me – it was about encouraging people to be brave in standing up for themselves and standing up for their rights.”

Sam Wolfe, a staff attorney at the SPLC, said: “We are incredibly happy that the officials at Hoover High School acted so quickly to restore the rights of this brave student.

“However, while the outcome is a good one, it is unfortunate that this fundamental right was denied in the first place.”

School principal Don Hulin told “The t-shirt at issue has not caused a substantial disruption and the student will be allowed to wear it. Our focus has been and will be on the learning environment at Hoover High School.”

There have been a number of recent high-profile cases of US LGBT students bringing legal action against schools.

Last year, 18-year-old Constance McMillen won $35,000 in damages after her Mississippi school barred her from taking a female date to prom.

This summer, two lawsuits were filed in the Anoka-Hennepin School District in Minnesota by six students who say the district failed to protect them from homophobic bullying, threats and violence.