I used to work at a public school and we had a policy about hanging signs and posters on the walls. Simply put, students needed to get permission first. Every poster needed a stamp from the main office before it could be copied and taped to the walls, whether it was announcing a club meeting or displaying random facts above a bathroom stall.
It’s a sensible policy because it prevents students from hanging anything they want in the public areas, since it’s all material the administrators will ultimately be held accountable for.
Recently, at Lebanon High School in Ohio, the Gay Straight Alliance got permission to hang rainbow flags (OH NO, THE HORROR!) in parts of the school. When Christian student Gabby Helsinger saw those, she decided to write Bible verses on posters and hang them on the walls… without permission. (It’s not clear which verses she posted… but keep in mind that the passages generally considered the anti-gay ones say homosexual acts are punishable by death.)
The school took down her signs because — obviously — she didn’t follow the rules. She didn’t get permission to post the signs.
It wasn’t an anti-Christian move; there are Christian clubs at the school who can advertise their meetings as long as they follow the rules. Just like everyone else.
But Gabby and her parents are certain she was being discriminated against, especially after she was punished for her actions with an in-school suspension.
Gabby recently posted this video online telling her side of the story, none of which contradicts what I just wrote. Her mother included a message reading, “Lebanon schools celebrates evil and punishes righteousness!!”
Gabby said that when she was returning from lunch, she witnessed her teachers taking down the Bible verses.
“The next day, I got called to the office and there is a letter that says that I have an ISS, which is an in-school suspension, and the reason why I have it is because ‘abuse of others, disrespect, rudeness’ because I put Bible verses up ‘targeting the GSA organization.’ I did not know what the GSA organization was or meant,” she claimed.
Of course she didn’t. Understanding the issue violates her conservative Christian beliefs.
She says she was punished for the disrespect — a.k.a. her Christian beliefs — but later in the video, she even admits that the lack of permission was a problem.
When she arrived at the principal’s office, according to Gabby, he asked her why she hung the Bible verses. “And I said, ‘Because I wanted to spread the word of God.’ And [the principal] goes, ‘Well did you have permission?’ And I said, ‘No.’ I didn’t know you had to have permission because people do it a lot — putting Post-It notes on people’s lockers, so I just did it.”
Again with the Christian privilege here: She assumed she understood the rules. She didn’t. Now she’s mad that she’s being punished for breaking the rules because SHE’S A CHRISTIAN, DAMMIT.
Gabby goes on to claim that she asked the principal why, if God or Jesus is mentioned, it gets removed “straight away,” while “gay pride stuff” is not punished.
Because, Gabby, the GSA groups probably asked for permission while you broke the rules. Jesus, this isn’t that complicated…
The school can’t comment on any of this because it would be wrong to go public about a student’s punishment, but the principal did send this very clear message to Yahoo:
Principal Scott Butler, who is unable to comment on student discipline matters, did tell Yahoo Lifestyle in an email, “In general, when a student violates the Student Code of Conduct, there are consequences for those actions.”
Right. Breaking the rules gets you punished. Being Christian does not.
Naturally, though, people like Franklin Graham are already spreading the persecution narrative, insisting that Gabby was the one who was wronged, without ever telling the full story to the gullible Christian readers.
The Christian Broadcasting Network even admitted all this, perhaps inadvertently, in a story about her:
If the student’s testimony stands, and she was not “targeting the GSA organization” as Principal Scott Butler allegedly claimed, then it appears her only offense was not receiving prior approval to post the verses, which is a far cry from the accusations of “abuse” toward other students.
Or maybe her messages were abusive and she broke the rules by posting the signs on the walls. It’s possible she violated the code of conduct and happens to be a bigot. (She’s a multitasker!)
Right now, conservative websites are trying to fill in the gaps of this story with their own ignorant rhetoric. The school’s administrators are tight-lipped because they have to be, which creates a vacuum for the FOX News crowd to make up their own narrative about how Gabby’s beliefs earned her a suspension… even though no other Christian in the school seems to suffer similar consequences, and even though Gabby freely admits there’s a club that prays before school without a problem.
Those conservative Christians are lying to their readers by insinuating her beliefs, and not her actions, are what got her in trouble.