By Michelle Garcia
Originally published on Advocate.com October 04 2011 4:38 PM ET
A high school student in Madisonville, Tenn., said he was verbally and physically assaulted by his principal last week for wearing a T-shirt supporting the establishment of a gay-straight alliance at Sequoyah High School.
Chris Sigler wore a homemade T-shirt to school last Tuesday that read, "Gay Straight Alliance: We've Got Your Back," according to the American Civil Liberties Union, which is assisting Sigler and other students in the matter. Though he was told to cover up his shirt that day, he wore the shirt again the following Friday.
Principal Maurice Moser came to Sigler's economic class in the middle of an exam, and demanded that all other students leave the room. Sigler's sister Jessica refused to leave. Both siblings said Moser grabbed Chris's arm, shoved him against a wall, and chest-bumped him several times, while asking, "Who's the big man now?" The attack ended when Sigler's mother arrived at the school to find Moser leaning over her son, shouting in his face. Moser eventually agreed not to formally suspend Chris, stipulating that the student leave the school grounds for the remainder of the day.
The family filed a report about the incident with local law enforcement, and the ACLU is demanding that the school district declare in writing that students can wear clothing that peacefully express an opinion. The organization plans to file a lawsuit if steps to make amends for the assault are not made.
“All I want is to have a GSA at my school to help stop the bullying against gays and lesbians and their friends who support them,” Sigler said in an ACLU statement Tuesday. “The shirt was a way to use my voice and show my support for the club. The way I was treated shows even more why we need a GSA here.”