Pa. students’ ‘Not Guilty’ T-shirts are protected speech

Friday, December 11, 2009

PITTSBURGH — A western Pennsylvania judge has cleared four former Pittsburgh-area high school students of harassment for wearing T-shirts with the words “Not Guilty” to school.

Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Robert Gallo said the shirt represented free speech protected by the First Amendment.

David Hood was a Penn Hills High School student last spring when he argued with a girl about prom expenses. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that the girl then filed a charge of harassment against Hood.

Magistrate Judge Leonard Hromyak said he would dismiss the case if Hood stayed out of trouble for 60 days. But the next day, Hood, his twin brother and two friends wore the “Not Guilty” T-shirts to school.

According to the Post-Gazette, school officials suspended the four students, barred David Hood from prom and graduation, and referred the matter to the police.

All four were cited for harassment and found guilty by Hromyak.

The students appealed, and on Dec. 9, Gallo overturned the convictions.

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