High School Student Successfully Sues District After Being Barred from Wearing 'Nobody Knows I'm a Lesbian' Shirt

Student Banned from Wearing 'Lesbian' Shirt Successfully Sues School District
Taylor Victor
Courtesy ACLU of Northern California

02/23/2016 AT 05:40 PM EST

After a five-month-long fight, Sierra High School student Taylor Victor can proudly wear her 'Nobody Knows I'm a Lesbian' shirt to school.

In August in Manteca, California, Victor, 16, was sent home for wearing the shirt, after her vice principal claimed that it violated the school district's dress code.

"I was shocked, and then I was definitely confused, because I had read all of the dress code in the handbook, and the rule that he told me my shirt violated didn't exist," Victor, a junior, who says that she bought the shirt as a joke because most people already know that she is a lesbian, recalls to PEOPLE.

"He told me directly that I couldn't display my sexuality on a T-shirt. Those were his exact words. And those exact words do not exist in the dress code."



Going into school that day, Victor was nervous that something like this would happen.

"I was mostly afraid because most of the faculty at my school is very religious – a lot of Mormons and Christians that hold very high positions – so that worried me a lot, that they were going to censor me because of their personal religious beliefs," she explains.

So it wasn't a total surprise when she was called into the vice principal's office.

"I had made it through three-quarters of the day already, so I wanted to think that it wasn't about my shirt, but I knew that it probably was going to be about my shirt," Victor says.

"The confusion and being upset grew into anger. I ended up going home and looking at the dress code again to see if I missed anything. And I definitely didn't miss anything, and that rule didn't exist and that made me even more angry, and then I started thinking to myself that I was dress coded because of their religious beliefs."

Thankfully, her fellow students were sympathetic, Victor says, and they were the ones who encouraged her to call the American Civil Liberties Union in Northern California, who took on her case.

"Most of the kids were really supportive, they're kind of the ones that gave me the motivation to fight it," she says. "I got the referral to the ACLU from a friend, and I went ahead and called them because [the vice principal] told me 'You can't wear your shirt and that's final.' So I was never really given a direct reason why, and my shirt didn't actually break any of the rules of the dress code. I was kind of like, 'You think it's going to be final, but it's not going to be final.' "

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With the help of the ACLU, Victor and her parents filed a complaint against the Manteca Unified School District in October.

"We thought it was going to be easy and they would just cave and give in. But that didn't happen at all. There were a lot of ups where we thought that it would end soon and it never did; they just wanted to keep fighting it. So it was really crazy, a lot of stressful times."

But on Feb. 16, the school district finally agreed to a settlement, and updated the dress code to make it clear that all students can wear clothing that expresses their identity, and supports others' identities.

"I was very hopeful the whole time that we were going to win, so when they announced that we had, I was very excited and very happy," Victor says. "I definitely feel more comfortable at school now."

And she wants her fight to help her fellow students.

"I hope that it teaches other kids of their free speech rights, and that their First Amendment rights do transfer when you go to school," she says. "And of course, schools are allowed to censor them to an extent, but they shouldn't ever make you feel uncomfortable or unwelcome."
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