Chris Sigler, Tennessee High School Student, Allegedly Assaulted By Principal For Wearing Pro-Gay Shirt

A Tennessee teen is claiming to have been both verbally and physically assaulted by his high school principal last week after wearing a T-shirt in support of establishing a gay-straight alliance among the student body.

As The Advocate is reporting, Chris Sigler wore a homemade T-shirt to Sequoyah High School in Madisonville. Tenn. on Sept. 27 emblazoned with the phrase, "Gay Straight Alliance: We've Got Your Back." Though Sigler was told to cover up his T-shirt, he wore it later that week on Sept. 30.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which is assisting Sigler and other students in the case, says Principal Maurice Moser approached Sigler in a classroom, and released a statement detailing the confrontation that allegedly followed:

Sigler says that Moser then ordered all students out of the classroom, except for Sigler’s sister Jessica, who refused to leave. According to both students, Moser then grabbed Sigler’s arm, shoved him, and chest-bumped him repeatedly while asking “Who’s the big man now?” Sigler’s mother reported that when she arrived at the school, she saw her son seated in a desk with Moser leaning over him and shouting in Sigler’s face. The Siglers filed a report about the incident that afternoon with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department.

As The Advocate reports, the Sigler family has filed formal charges with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department, and ACLU officials plan to file a lawsuit if steps to make amends for the assault are not made. "This is a grossly disproportionate and potentially illegal response to students' efforts to form a school club," write Tricia Herzfeld, legal director of ACLU's Tennessee chapter, and Amanda Goad, staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project, in a demand letter addressed to Monroe County Schools Director Michael Lowry. "The school has a legal obligation to ensure the safety of all its students, and failure to fulfill this obligation can have devastating consequences for students and their education and expose the school and district to extensive liability."

In the ACLU statement, Sigler noted, "All I want is to have a GSA at my school to help stop the bullying against gays and lesbians and their friends who support them...The shirt was a way to use my voice and show my support for the club. The way I was treated shows even more why we need a GSA here."

LGBT blog Talk About Equality reports that Moser has claimed that the only reason a Sequoyah High School GSA was not possible was due to the fact they couldn’t find an appropriate faculty sponsor, but notes the principal had "assisted other clubs with finding one."