Cooperating Attorneys: Amanda C. Goad, Staff Attorney for ACLU LGBT Project ; Heather L. Weaver, Staff Attorney for ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief; Galen Sherwin, Staff Attorney for ACLU Women’s Rights Project
The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Tennessee sent a letter to the Haywood County school district superintendent after receiving reports that Haywood High School Principal Dorothy Bond said gay students are “not on God’s path” and threatened to expel them if they publicly showed affection for members of the same sex. The letter was sent on behalf of several students and families at the school.
The ACLU also received reports that Bond not only made discriminatory remarks about LGBT people, but also told students that “life is over” for girls who become pregnant.
Multiple students contacted the ACLU to express concerns about an assembly that took place on February 9, 2012. At the assembly, Principal Bond reportedly said that gay people are “ruining their lives” and threatened to administer severe punishment – including 60-day suspensions, assignments to an alternative school or expulsion – to any students who were observed publicly displaying affection for members of the same sex. The school already had a policy on public displays of affection that is neutral regarding sexual orientation.
On March 1, 2012, the ACLU asked the school to clarify that students have the constitutional right to identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual; to acknowledge that two students of the same sex are dating; to express LGBT-friendly political views; and to receive an education free from the unlawful promotion of religion by school officials. The principal resigned that same day.
In their statement announcing Bond’s resignation, the Haywood County School District affirmed students’ right to free speech and upheld values of tolerance and diversity.
Haywood County Demand Letter (March 1, 2012)