Settlement reached in teen's Tennessee T-shirt case

Settlement reached in teen's Tennessee T-shirt case

Settlement reached in teen's Tennessee T-shirt case

A teenager who was sent home from school for wearing a T-shirt displaying a Bible verse has emerged the victor in a court battle – albeit with a minimal cash settlement.

The story began in 2020 and involved the Livingston Academy, a public county high school in Tennessee, and Rev. Rich Penkoski's daughter Brielle, who was 15 at the time.

"She wore a T-shirt that said 'Homosexuality is a Sin' with a reference to 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 on there," Penkoski explains. "There is nothing hateful about citing a Bible verse."

Brielle, he continues, sat in her assigned seat on the front row. Her teacher in that class happened to be homosexual.

"And they told her to go to the principal's office, and the principal told her to either change her shirt or go home," says the girl's father. "He said the shirt, by [displaying] the word homosexuality, was 'sexually connotative'. She refused to change her shirt, so they made her go home."

His daughter eventually was awarded $101 by the court.

"There's no payout in civil rights cases. We don't do it for money. It's usually one dollar. You have to get at least a dollar or more to consider it a win – and then the attorneys get paid," he tells AFN. "So, getting a hundred dollars was actually more than we thought we were going to get anyway."

Penkoski argues the school broke Tennessee law. "Right before we settled, my lawyer had filed a motion for sanctions because the day that my daughter wore the T-shirt, [there was] communication between the principal and the superintendent. They deleted some emails."

And there's more: "The homosexual teacher [is] no longer at the school. The superintendent got fired. They tried to start a Gay-Straight Alliance [club] there, and the other students pushed back and said no, they didn't want it as a result of all this."

Penkoski wants parents to know what their children are being taught matters.

"Abraham Lincoln said that the philosophy of the classroom in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next," he notes. "We are literally one generation away from them canceling Christianity in this country – and it's going to take Christians with a backbone to stand up and fight back."

According to Penkoski, outside factors that were COVID-related played a part in the case lasting around three years.