After a “lengthy public meeting” Wednesday night, May 20, the Wimberley ISD Board of Trustees announced that the school district would not pursue any legal action against persons displaying a rainbow version of the high school’s Wimberley Texans logo, but at the same time insisted the district had the right to pursue legal action if the board chose to do so, according to an email from the ACLU of Texas.
The board said the reason for not following through on threats of suing anyone who used or displayed the rainbow-fied logo was that doing so would be a waste of the district’s time and limited resources.
The school board’s online public meeting was held in response to a grievance filed by the ACLU of Texas to defend the First Amendment rights of Wimberley parent Bryan Burke, who sought to use the rainbow logo but feared the district would follow through on its threat to sue if he did.
The controversy began last fall when a group of parents created an image with the Texans logo superimposed over a rainbow flag and then posted the graphic on Facebook and made T-shirts featuring the image for the city of Wimberley’s for LGBTQ Pride March in September.
School Board member Lori Olson posted a photo of herself on the Wimberley Pride March Facebook page wearing the t-shirt, writing that her “heart is full with all the wonderful people” marching in the town’s first Pride parade, and that she stood “in solidarity with everyone involved” even though she was at a meeting in Dallas and could not attend herself.
Shortly after, WISD Superintendent Dwain York sent an email to parents claiming that the Texan logo was an official brand and that any alteration would suggest a district endorsement. He said that any altered form of the logo would not be approved by any board member or administrator and that using the official logo in any way required written approval from the superintendent.
The school district also threatened legal action unless the parents who had posted the graphic on their personal social media pages removed it by Jan. 6.
Brian Klosterboer, an attorney with the ACLU of Texas, said that while his organization is disappointed that the WISD board “did not fully grapple with how the district’s actions chilled people’s First Amendment rights,” the decision is still “a victory for Wimberley parents, who will now be able to use the altered LGBTQ Pride logo without any repercussion.
Klosterboer added, “As this unprecedented school year ends, LGBTQ students in Wimberley and their allies can at least know they don’t have to bear the added challenge of fearing legal action for a simple — and legally protected — act of free expression.”
Burke himself said he is “so proud of the outcome we achieved. The WISD school board has confirmed LGBTQ students, allies and parents may use the Texan Pride rainbow logo without fear of repercussion.”
But Burke, too, was disappointed that the board failed to address the freedom of speech issues at hand.
“The First Amendment has always supported this type of expression, and it is disappointing that the district didn’t recognize this from the beginning,” Burke said. “For me, this effort has been about supporting my daughter’s pride and that of the other students in the school. This was an issue worth fighting for, and without the ACLU of Texas and the support of others, assaults on civil liberties by those in power would go unabated.”
See the Wimberley ISD board’s full statement here.
— Tammye Nash