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What Andrea Wore on the First Day of School
For the last two years, Andrea Lawyer regularly wore a pro-life T-shirt to her public school. The front read "Abortion Is Homicide." The back had the message, "You will not silence my message. You will not mock my God. You will stop killing my generation."
This past spring, a teacher complained to the school administration. A vice principal tried to pressure Andrea to stop wearing the shirt.
Noting that no school regulations forbid this type of free speech, Andrea fought back. She notified the local paper, and soon her story came to the attention of national wire services.
When Dr. Laura Schlessinger read Andrea's story on her radio program, the 15-year-old received an outpouring of support from around the country.
She recently spoke with Register correspondent Daria Sockey from her home in Prosser, Wash.
Sockey: How long have you been actively pro-life?
It started about three years ago. Before then, I really didn't know much about the pro-life movement. Then, at a Christian youth rally, I met representatives from Rock for Life. I learned a lot from them. They send a free newsletter to anyone who wants it.
I bought that T-shirt from Rock for Life, just as a way to support what they were doing. I wore it to school during eighth and ninth grade, and only got positive feedback from other students. No one ever told me they were offended.
I had also asked a teacher at one point whether the shirt might be objectionable, but he told me it wasn't against school regulations. The only rules were not to have messages promoting sex, drugs or violence. And there's rules about modesty, like no spaghetti strap shirts.
What got the authorities upset, and what arguments did they make against your wearing the shirt?
One of my teachers complained. They won't tell me who, but I've got a pretty good idea.
I was called in to the vice principal, who tried for about 25 minutes to bully me into turning my shirt inside out. First he said it was "too powerful" a message. I told him we learned about abortion in health class, and were always told to make our own decisions about it, and I had made mine.
He told me students can only express their opinions if it does not offend other students. I told him no one had ever told me they were offended. He then asked if I thought the shirt was appropriate in a school setting. I said, "Does it promote sex, violence or drugs?"
He threatened to suspend me, and wouldn't let me call my parents. But I didn't back down, and finally he let me go back to class.
Later, I made a survey of what kids in the halls were wearing. I saw one T-shirt with a marijuana leaf on it, another with the Playboy bunny emblem, and about 20 girls wearing spaghetti strap shirts. Yet the school was picking on me. It was so ironic.
Then you began a campaign to protect your rights.
I figured I'd better not wear the T-shirt for a while, just to be safe. But to get my message out, I wrote to the local paper, and that by itself caused a lot of protest and support for me, because this is a pretty conservative, churchgoing town.
The editors of the paper wrote in my favor. The school responded that they might change the rules to prohibit any political slogans starting this fall.
My aunt suggested I send my story to Dr. Laura. The day Dr. Laura read my story, I received 840 e-mails from around the country, and many more for days after that. Three individual lawyers wrote to assure me that I was within my rights, and offered to help me out if I needed it.
The Thomas More Center for Law and Justice, which does legal work for Rock for Life, has also been helping me out. They sent a friendly but slightly threatening letter to the school, explaining that a move to prohibit all political statements would never hold up in court.
Three weeks ago the school announced that they would not be revising the school dress code.
So, what are you going to wear the first day of school?
What would you say is the most positive result of this whole situation?
That it's been such an eye-opener for a lot of people about what's going on, both about abortion and about free speech. So many people from all over are in contact with me, and they're asking questions. Once people want to ask questions, you can start answering them.
I now know about 50 kids locally who would like to start a local Rock for Life group. If we can just get the meeting space and the adult supervision, we can get going.
What advice would you give to peers who would like to take a more public pro-life stand, but are feeling a little shy or afraid of consequences?
You kind of have to just get over being afraid. I'm actually known as a shy person most of the time. Schools put on a face of "We have power over you." But they don't have that much power really. If you stand up for your rights, there's nothing a school can do to stop you.
What has your parents' involvement been?
They are supporting me all the way. Mom is so proud, she saves all my clippings. Mom home schooled me for five years before I went back to regular schools and I think that helped. If I had been in regular schools all those years, I don't think I would have had the independence to stand up against them. I might have been too afraid to take a stand.
Daria Sockey. "What Andrea Wore on the First Day of School." National Catholic Register. (September, 2001).
This article is reprinted with permission from National Catholic Register. To subscribe to the National Catholic Register call 1-800-421-3230.
Daria Sockey is a homeschooling mother of seven from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Her work appears in National Catholic Register, Our Sunday Visitor, Faith & Family, and New Covenant. In addition, she authored several student texts of the Faith & Life catechetical series published by Ignatius Press.
Copyright © 2001 National Catholic Register