Seventeen year old Heather Gillman
sought help from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) after
students were instructed by her principal they were not allowed to
show support for a fellow gay student.
Ponce De Leon, Florida high school
principal David Davis banned all forms of pro-gay messages at the
school after students responded with support for a lesbian who had
Gillman said in an audio podcast
available at the ACLU website that she was trying to show support for
a friend who had been teased for being lesbian. When the student
went to Davis for help, she was told that her lifestyle was “against
Some students supported the girl by
writing GP (gay pride) on their hands and wearing pink triangles,
others wore slogans including “I Support Gays” and “God Loves
Me Just the Way I Am.” Principal Davis banned these pro-gay
messages. Davis also held a morality assembly and suspended several
students for supporting the girl.
Gillman, with the help of the ACLU,
sued the Holmes County School Board claiming Davis violated her First
Amendment rights to free speech when he silenced the students.
In his opinion, U.S. District Judge
Richard Smoak said, “Davis embarked on what can only be
characterized as a witch hunt,” and ordered the county to pay
$325,000 in damages and attorneys fees.
At the website nwfdailynews.com, one
reader disagreed with an editorial in support of the ruling titled
“Rainbows? Not in my high school!” by saying: “The prevailing
question is this: What of HIS right to free expression? The
editorial makes the case that “open minded” is to accept the
media and secular thought regarding homosexuality. Why? Why is it
“closed minded” to believe that homosexuality is wrong?
Integrity and morality and the right to free expression are not only
the rights of students; they are the rights of every person.”
In the ACLU podcast, Gillman is asked
what made her decide to fight Davis when she was not suspended.
“Because I thought it was wrong that he was telling people that
being gay or lesbian was going against the Bible or going down the
wrong road. I didn't think that was – I didn't think he should be
able to be pushing that on people. So, I really believed in it, and
I was like, yeah I'm going to do this,” Gillman responded.
Principal Davis has since been
transferred into a classroom, reports the local CBS affiliate WTVY.