Schoolchildren Reuters

A student at an Ohio school has filed a lawsuit in the federal court against the school authorities for prohibiting him from wearing a T-shirt bearing the slogan Jesus is Not a Homophobe.

Maverick Couch, 17, of Waynesville High School in Cincinnati, Ohio, has alleged that school Principal Randy Gebhardt had violated the tenets of freedom of expression by refusing to let him wear the anti-homophobia T-shirt designed to show support for the Day of Silence on April 20, observed to draw attention to homophobic bullying and abuse.

Couch said he tried to wear the T-shirt last spring on the Day of Silence and on several other occasions, but his requests were repeatedly rejected on grounds of the alleged indecent and sexual nature of the slogan.

I don't think the shirt is sexual at all. I don't know how they can say that, Couch told the Cincinnati Enquirer. I don't think it's indecent.

The lawsuit alleged that Couch was threatened with suspension if he wore the shirt which featured, along with the slogan, a rainbow-colored logo of fish symbolizing Christianity.

Couch's attorney Christopher Clark said that the lawsuit was filed only after several attempts to settle the disagreement internally.

I do think what the school is doing is bullying, Clark was quoted as saying. They're trying to shame him into not wearing this shirt.

Speaking to the local reporters, school district's superintendent Pat Dubbs said that the principal considered the shirt a distraction and asked the student to wear it inside out when he wore it last year. We're in the business of education and our main concern is maintaining an environment that is conducive to education, Dubbs said.

This isn't the first time the issue of whether the school officials can prohibit a student from wearing clothes with offensive messages has stirred up debate.

In October last year, administrators at Gilbert High School in Arizona banned students from wearing breast cancer awareness T-shirts which read: Feel your lumps, save your bumps. Students defended the slogan saying that the T-shirt didn't say anything more than what a doctor would say.

But school principal J. Charles Santa Cruz said the T-shirts were not appropriate in a school setting: In no way is the school administration against Breast Cancer Awareness Month or initiatives students might take in support of it; we just want to make sure we're in the bounds of appropriate boundaries of a school setting.

Schools can ban clothing with slogans that are hurtful. A US appeals court verdict of 2006 on the case of a student, who wore a T-shirt with a slogan Homosexuality is Shameful, said that schools had the responsibility to protect students from attacks based on race, religion, or sexual orientation.