MADISONVILLE, Tenn. — More than 83,000 people have signed an online petition at Change.org, demanding that authorities launch an investigation into allegations that a Monroe County Tennessee high school principal assaulted a student for wearing a homemade t-shirt in support of another student’s efforts to form a Gay-Straight alliance in the school, reported the Knoxville News Sentinel.
Chris Sigler, a 17-year-old Senior, was reportedly shoved, bumped in the chest and verbally harassed by Principal Maurice Moser of the Sequoyah High School in Madisonville.
Moser told the teenager to either change the shirt or leave school, according to Sigler, and Sigler’s mother who was called to pick him up. Before she arrived at the school, Moser cleared the classroom Sigler was in and — Sigler alleges — pushed him and chest-bumped him while saying “You think you’re a big man now?” and “What you gonna do about this?”
According to the Siglers, Chris’ sister Jessica Sigler witnessed the incident.
The Change.org petition was initiated by the Gay Straight Alliance Network, based in San Francisco, and the Tennessee Equality Project on Oct. 4 after the American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter to Monroe County Schools warning it was contemplating a lawsuit.
“It is totally unacceptable that a young man who was peacefully exercising his First Amendment rights would have his speech shut down by the public school principal,” said Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the ACLU of Tennessee.
“Last week’s incident clearly illustrates the hostile environment LGBT students face at Sequoyah High School. Given this context, it’s especially important that supportive voices like Sigler’s can be heard in order to overcome the school’s resistance to a GSA.”
Chuck Cagle, attorney for Monroe County Schools, said Monday he had not seen the petition and had no plans to look at it. Cagle said the ACLU will receive a response.
“We plan to respond. I’m not sure that it’s going to get done by tomorrow,” Cagle said. “The people who write letters like that like to place arbitrary deadlines on them.”
Tricia Herzfeld, ACLU of Tennessee legal director, said it is normal practice to give schools a week to answer ACLU requests.
“We gave the school district a week, which is the amount of time we usually give schools to respond to our requests that they stop violating students’ rights. After speaking with the school district it sounds like they need more time to come in line with the Constitution. Given that it is fall break we will give them until early next week,” she said.