A Torrington man was arrested after police said he refused to leave a school and caused a disturbance because a Wolcott High School student was allowed to wear a T-shirt with an anti-gay message.
Seth Groody wore the T-shirt, which shows a slash through a rainbow, to school in April 2012, which was designated as a Day of Silence at Wolcott High School as part of a national movement to raise awareness of bullying and harassment of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people.
According to Groody, he was ordered to remove the T-shirt by school officials, and did so under protest.
On Tuesday, the school officials reversed their decision after pressure from the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut, who threatened to sue the school.
On Wednesday morning, Derrell Rice, 68, went to the Plymouth Center School on North Street and told officials that he was there to register his granddaughter for school.
When school security met with Rice, he told them that he was upset that a student was being able to wear an anti-gay T-shirt to school.
Officials explained to Rice that the incident occurred in Wolcott and not Plymouth. After he created commotion, the Plymouth Police Department was called, but Rice had driven off.
The Wolcott Police Department was notified of the incident and informed the schools in town. However, Rice appeared at the Wolcott School Department to express his disgust with the situation.
Officers located Rice, who was ringing the buzzer, but not being let in, and was asking to speak with the superintendent of schools.
Wolcott Superintendent Joseph P. Macary spoke with Rice, who was visibly upset, and explained the incident to him. However, when Rice was told that he was not allowed at any Wolcott schools, he refused to leave and was arrested.
Rice was charged with two counts of breach of peace, one from each town, and first-degree criminal trespass. He was being held on a $1,000 bond.
Groody, who said he wasn't looking to start trouble and just wanted to make his stance clear, is expected to wear a T-shirt with a similar message in the future.
The Wolcott Public Schools supports the First Amendment rights of students on its Facebook page Tuesday night.
"The Wolcott Public Schools has always and will continue to allow students their rights of free expression, so long as all students exercise their rights without creating a substantial disruption to the educational environment for all students," the Facebook page stated.
The ACLU is expected to speak in-depth on the subject in the future.
"The First Amendment was written to protect unpopular speech, which is naturally the kind of speech that will always need protection," said Sandra Staub, legal director of the ACLU of Connecticut. "The ACLU has fought hard for same-sex marriage and we couldn't agree with Seth less on that issue, but he is absolutely correct about his right to express his opinion."
Copyright 2013 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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