Anti-Gay Stickers At High School In Indio Touch Off Debate: Hate Speech Or Free Speech?

INDIO (CBSLA.com) —   Students displaying anti-LGBT stickers at a high school in Indio have touched off a debate: is that free speech or hate speech?

The stickers show a rainbow — the symbol of the gay community — with a line crossing through it. Officials said the stickers have increasingly shown up over the past two weeks on some students’ school ID badges at Shadow Hills High School, as well as on social media websites.

The increasing number of the stickers caused an outcry at the school among students and faculty. Many called it hate speech. Shadow Hills senior and vice president of the Gay Straight Alliance Michelle Bachman said on Twitter that the stickers were “definitely hate speech, but legally, we can’t do anything until these students start to physically harass us, which I believe is an injustice.”

School district administrators said the students have the right to display the stickers, just as pro-LGBT students would.

In an email sent to staff Wednesday, Desert Sands Unified School District administrators wrote, “After consulting with district level personnel and our legal counsel, it was determined that these students do have the protected right to freedom of speech, just as students portraying rainbows in support of the LGBT would.”

The school district said that is the stickers led to actual verbal or physical harassment, that would be going too far.

“Every person can have an opinion, but if there’s harassment or bullying then it does cross the line,” DSUSD Assistant Superintendent Laura Fisher told KESQ.

“If at any point students are interrupting class time to express their beliefs, they are to be sent to the discipline office with a referral for disruption,” the school district’s Wednesday email said. “We all have a right to freedom of speech, but students also have a right to be educated without fear. This has always been our policy, and we will continue to enforce it.”

(©2016 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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