Taylor Victor, a 16-year-old from Manteca, California, recently found herself in the middle of a heated battle surrounding her right to freedom of speech after wearing a T-shirt to school that stated, "Nobody knows I'm a lesbian." Victor, who is openly gay, was told by the administration of Sierra High School that the shirt promoted sexual activity, degraded religious values and was disruptive.
Victor was sent to the principal's office, where she was given two options: She could either change clothes and never wear the shirt to school again, or she could go home. Victor called her dad to get him to bring her home, but she didn't just wave the white flag on her walk out the door. Instead she called the American Civil Liberties Union to report her alleged mistreatment.
Afraid that she would be unable to fully be herself at school, she moved forward with a lawsuit against her school's administrators. With the support of ACLU and her parents, Victor sued two school administrators for censorship in violation of her First Amendment right to free speech.
The case, which began in August, was settled last week. Though the school denied any wrongdoing, it agreed to pay Victor's family's $63,000 in legal fees, to change its dress code and to institute a districtwide training course on students' right to free speech. The updated dress code will allow students to wear clothing that expresses their identities on the basis of race, gender, religion and sexual orientation, among other characteristics.
Victor has stated that she came out to her parents as a lesbian the previous year and that they have been supportive ever since. In a blog post for ACLU of Northern California, Victor wrote that after her principal stated she wasn't allowed to wear clothing that displayed her personal choices or beliefs, that the shirt could be "an open invitation to sex" or that it could even be "gang-related," she and her parents knew it was time to take a stand.
There's something to be said for parents who would take their encouragement for their daughter all the way to the court of law. The way Victor's parents basically put their own necks on the line while she went through the legal process of this lawsuit is a true testament to their devotion to their daughter. They had her back throughout the entire ordeal, embracing not only her identity but also her fight for her right to be open with the world about who she is.
It's every parent's job to be there for their kids, to encourage them and support them through highs and lows. Often our kids see us as dictators that are constantly raining on their parades, like overbearing tyrants who just dole out rules and teach responsibility. What they don't always realize is that most of us, as parents, do what we do because we love them and want to protect them, and that when it really comes down to it, we've got their backs no matter what.
The conviction and faith the Victors have in their daughter deserve a standing ovation or a gold star at the very least. It is something any parent could stand to take note of. No matter how different we all may be, when push comes to shove, we should always have our kids' backs.
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