ACLU Says School District Agreed to Permit Student to Wear Gay-Pride Accessory; District Says Wristband Ban Never Existed

The Peoria Unified School District has agreed "it will no longer prevent" a 14-year-old student from wearing a gay-pride wristband, the ACLU says today.

The district, however, says it never agreed to any such thing -- because the student was never disallowed from wearing the accessory.

Maggie Olney, spokeswoman for the district, says the ACLU's statement -- and the demand letter the civil-rights organization sent last month -- is based on inaccurate information.

"We were pretty shocked" by last month's demand letter, says Olney. No ban on gay-pride clothing has ever existed in the district, for one thing. And in this case, the boy in question was never reprimanded for the wristband nor told he could not wear it to school, she says.

True, the principal of Parkridge Elementary did stop the boy on campus and examine the wristband. Olney says he also told the boy's mother that if her son wanted to be teased less at school, perhaps he shouldn't flaunt his sexuality. But a prohibition on the wristbands? Never happened, she says.

Perhaps the whole thing came down to poor communication between the principal and the boy's mother during a phone call that exacerbated the issue.

Here's part of today's statement from the ACLU of Arizona:


PEORIA, AZ - Peoria Unified School District has assured the American Civil Liberties Union that it will no longer prevent a gay 14-year-old student from wearing a rainbow wristband at school, following an ACLU letter that demanded that the school district rescind its ban on the wristband.

"It's a good thing that the school has finally realized that it can't just disregard First Amendment rights of students who are gay," said Natali Quintanilla, mother of the eighth grader whose wristband was banned. "I'm very proud of my son for standing up for his rights and we both hope this means that other gay students won't be silenced at his school in the future."

Quintanilla contacted the ACLU in February after her son Chris's principal told her he wouldn't allow her son to wear his cloth wristband with words "Rainbows are gay" to school anymore. Last week, the school finally gave assurances to the ACLU that it would not censor Quintanilla's wristband in the future.

"Students have a constitutional right to free speech at school, and school officials should be aware of their responsibility for upholding this cornerstone of our freedom," said Elizabeth Gill, staff attorney for the ACLU national Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Project. "This district was right to come to its senses and back down from violating the First Amendment, because students have 40 years of Supreme Court precedent on their side when schools do this kind of thing."

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.