Arlington High School student claims he was victim of censorship

ARLINGTON — An Arlington High School student is claiming that he was a victim of censorship, according to media reports.

Justin Surber, 18, has said that he was told to remove his black T-shirt, which reads "GOD IS DEAD" in bold white letters, for a yearbook photo re-take.

Surber allegedly wore the shirt during a day when the school's debate club, of which he is a member, was scheduled to have its photo taken for the yearbook.

According to reports, a request was made by the yearbook adviser for a yearbook staff member to re-take the photo.

One of Surber's friends, Reed Summerlin, asked that staffer for clarification on the re-take, and was told that it was because of Surber's shirt.

Both Surber and Summerlin decided to not be in the second photo, reports said.

A statement issued by the school district on Friday, Feb. 12, said that the Arlington High School staff adviser followed "established practices of exercising discretion to omit content which is considered inappropriate or offensive."

School district spokeswoman Misti Gilman said in an e-mail that district legal counsel said that no student's First Amendment rights to free speech were violated.

"Our attorney advised that school districts are not responsible for embracing or promoting a student('s) ideals," Gilman said.

Gilman cited the Arlington High School Student Handbook, which reads that student publications that are endorsed by the school are not private speech of students — rather they are public communicative activities of the school district.

The term "God is Dead" is a statement coined by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, and first appears in "The Gay Science," published in 1882.

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