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Abortion T-Shirt Triggers Dress Code Dispute

HARRISBURG, Pa. (CN) - The father of a middle-school student ordered to remove an "Abortion is not Healthcare" T-shirt on the day of President Obama's speech to students says the school's dress code amounts to "draconian censorship of religious and political speech."

William Boyer, of New Cumberland, Pa., sued the West Shore School District in Federal Court, claiming the district's policies on student expression and dress violate his child's rights.

The student, E.B., described as a "Bible-believing Christian who desires to share his faith and beliefs with other students and to discuss how the Bible addresses issues, such as abortion," wore the shirt to school on Sept. 8 to protest health care reform, according to the lawsuit.

His fifth-period teacher questioned the shirt's appropriateness, and the principal told him to remove it "because it might insult somebody," the lawsuit says.

The school's dress code bans "clothing which creates hostile educational environment or evidences discriminatory bias or animus." Another policy prohibits speech which "seek[s] to establish the supremacy of a particular religious denomination, sect, or point of view," according to the lawsuit.

Boyer says both policies violate the First and 14th Amendments.

"[E.B.]'s sincerely held religious beliefs compel him to share his faith and beliefs and to address relevant subjects from a Biblical point of view with his friends and classmates at school," Boyer says. "[He] accomplishes this goal at school through speaking and through wearing religious and political t-shirts. In the future, [he] desires to engage in religious speech ... absent fear of reprisal and without facing punishment or being made to remove the message."

Boyer wants a declaratory judgment that the district's policies are unconstitutional.

He is represented by Randall Wenger of the Independence Law Center and David Cortman of the Alliance Defense Fund.

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