Earlier this month Brandon Wegner, 15, a Shawano Community High School sophomore, wrote an editorial in the student newspaper opposing gay adoption. Another student, Maddie Marquardt, wrote an opinion piece right next to Wegners, arguing we can't judge whether someone is a suitable parent simply by their sexual orientation.
But after running in the student newspaper, which appeared as an insert in the Shawano Leader, the opinion pieces have been removed from remaining copies.
Now an attorney with the Liberty Counsel, a non-profit law firm specializing in first amendment rights, is representing Wegner. Harry Mihet says Wegner's first amendment rights have been outrageously violated.
Mihet says Wegner was given the topic of gay adoption. In his opinion piece he quotes the bible and says, "In a Christian society allowing homosexual couples to adopt is an abomination."
After the piece ran, the Shawano School District decided to remove it from the school newspaper.
Mihet says whether you agree with gay adoption or not is irrelevant.
"He did nothing more than to express his opinion on a particular topic, an opinion in which with some are free to agree and some to disagree but an opinion which is absolutely protected with the first amendment of the Constitution" Mihet said.
Mihet alleges the school district superintendent, Todd Carlson, pulled Wegner out of class and made him feel ashamed for his piece.
"The superintendent told him that he had violated the school's bullying policy," Mihet said. "The superintendent also told him he was ignorant and all kinds of demeaning names."
Now Liberty Counsel is demanding the school district give Wegner a sincere apology. They also want the district to make it clear to students and the community that student journalists have the first amendment right to express their opinions.
The firm is threatening litigation against the Shawano School District if they don't comply.
Carlson sent a statement saying the situation has escalated to the point where school district staff have been threatened.
He also says he did not call Wegner any names, and that Wegner was the one who initiated a conversation with him.
Carlson says the section of the student newspaper including both pro and con viewpoints was pulled from extra copies of the newspaper at school, and no further action was taken.
But Mihet says his client was told he can no longer write for the student paper, and that's bad news for all student journalists.
"A student journalist has no choice but to fear punishment approaching any topic because they could end up just the same way that Brandon has ended up," Mihet said.
On January 31, a school district representative told NewsChannel 7 they've received hundreds of e-mails and telephone calls in support and opposition of the action.
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