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updated: 11/9/2010 3:08 PM

Anti-gay shirts spark unrest at St. Charles North High School

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Three St. Charles North High School students turned a student event about not bullying gay students into an opportunity to demonstrate their personal views against homosexuality Monday.

This week is Ally Week at the school. Ally Week is a national event encouraged by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network meant to identify, support and celebrate allies against language, bullying and harassment of people based on their lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender status. Students in support of that mission will be asked to sign a pledge stating that belief at the school Wednesday in an event organized by fellow students.

At least three students at the school demonstrated their own view of that event Monday by wearing shirts reading "Straight Pride" on the front and referencing a Biblical verse from Leviticus on the back. The verse, in some translations, advocates death as punishment for homosexual activity.

District 303 Spokesman Jim Blaney said the students were called to their deans' offices when the shirts' message began to create tension with other students. After a discussion, the students were sent back to class while still wearing the shirts. The deans then discussed the matter with Principal Kim Zupec, who consulted Superintendent Don Schlomann about the best course of action.

"The decision was made to have a second discussion with those students," Blaney said. "They were told they have the right to express their point of view, but they also need to be aware of how their message could be hurtful to others. The three students all said they didn't intend to offend anyone; they were merely expressing their pride in being straight."

The students were allowed to wear the shirts for the rest of the day, but voluntarily agreed they would not wear the shirts to school again, Blaney said.

"The decision was made with the idea of what's best for the students," Blaney said. "Staff decided to use the incident as a teachable moment. It's OK to disagree, but you have to disagree respectfully."

The students received no formal discipline for their actions. Blaney said staff at the high school are now working with the school's chapter of the Gay-Straight Alliance for additional student-led events on the topics of respect and human dignity to restore a positive mood at the school. Blaney said Zupec also went to St. Charles East High School to discuss and clarify the matter with concerned students circulating an inaccurate version of events they'd only heard about and not witnessed.