A lawyer for a north Florida school district says a handful of students have been sent home from Alachua County schools this week for wearing shirts that read "Islam is of the Devil."
School district staff attorney Tom Wittmer says the shirts might have offended or distracted others and violated the district's dress code.
The shirts are connected to a local church called the Dove World Outreach Center. Church Senior Pastor Terry Jones tells The Gainesville Sun that spreading the church's message is more important than education.
See a picture of the shirt from the Gainesville Sun
The congregation says a 10-year-old elementary school student was sent home Monday because of the shirt. Three high school students were sent home Tuesday and a middle school student also had to change clothes.
"Students have a right of free speech, and we have allowed students to come to school wearing clothes with messages," Wittmer said, according to the Gainesville Sun. "But this message is a divisive message that is likely to offend students. Principals, I feel reasonably, have deemed that a violation of the dress code."
"The next kid might show up with a shirt saying 'Christianity is of the Devil,'" Wittmer told the newspaper.
First Amendment scholars said the school district's policy is likely legal and constitutional. Ron Collins, a scholar with the nonprofit First Amendment Center in Washington D.C., said courts give public school officials a "significant amount of latitude" in regulating student dress that could disrupt the classroom or a school function, the newspaper reported.
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