At least two students at Faubion Middle School in McKinney, Texas were sent home from school on Wednesday for wearing t-shirts that read “Gay O.K.” in support of a fellow classmate who was bullied after coming out recently.
Four students the group of at least 15 who wore the t-shirts in solidarity told NBC 5 that an administrator informed them the message was inappropriate for school, and gave them an opportunity to change or turn the shirts inside out.
“[He] came up to me and said that he doesn’t believe this message is school appropriate,” said Anna Thompson, a student in the group. “Being gay is okay. And it is okay to be open about it,” she said of their decision to wear the shirts.
Administrators, however, are standing by their decision in the wake of controversy.
Cody Cunningham, spokesman for the McKinney Independent School District, explained it wasn’t the shirt’s message that caused disruption, but the student body’s reaction to the disagreement being had between students wearing the shirts and administrators who didn’t like them.
“We were doing perfectly fine until lunch,” said Sammy Heiman, a seventh grader who designed the shirts. “And then [the administration] called us all out, all the people wearing them, called us out of the cafeteria. And people started getting rowdy because they knew what was going on. They were making us take off the shirts.”
Video of the outburst, which you can see a part of in the report below, has gone viral on social media since it was posted earlier this week. It shows the students walking out of the lunchroom at the direction of administrators while the entire student body erupts with cheers.
Administrators pointed to a caveat in the school’s dress code policy, which prohibits “any disruptive or distractive mode of clothing or appearance that adversely impacts the educational process.”
“In this particular case, a verbal disruption occurred between a large number of students in the cafeteria as a result of the shirts. This was not a civil debate, but rather yelling and shouting, and [it] alarmed a large number of students,” said Cunningham. “While we respect student free speech, our primary obligation is to ensure a safe and productive learning environment for students in McKinney ISD.”
Kristy Heiman, Sammy Heiman’s mother, said she couldn’t be prouder of her daughter and her friends.
“I’m just so proud of them. I just want everybody to know that it just takes one person,” she said. “This was just supposed to be a nice, quiet five or six kids wearing something. And it turned into something much bigger.”