“I said to my friend behind me, ‘I’m a Christian, and I think that being gay is wrong,’” Dakota Ary, a freshmen honors student at Western Hills High School in Fort Worth, Texas, said in a phone interview with CNSNews.com.
“I did it in a non-hostile way, and if it offends someone, that’s alright because the First Amendment gives me that right,” he added.
Ary made the comment to his classmate on Sept. 20 during a discussion in his German class about religious beliefs in Germany. The teacher, identified as Kristopher Franks, talked about how to say “Christian” in German. Another student asked about homosexuality in relation to religion, prompting Ary’s comment.
Franks wrote Ary up for an infraction of discipline for making a comment out of context, and charging Ary with “possible bullying” and stating “it is wrong to make such statements in a public school.”
Ary and his attorneys at the religious rights law firm Liberty Counsel said Assistant Principal Jill Thomason issued a one day in-school suspension to Ary and two more days of full suspension.
Dakota’s mother, Holly Pope, immediately contested the decision.
“I thought back through the conversation [with Assistant Principal Thomason], and was like, ‘No. He shouldn’t be in trouble at all, because he didn’t do anything wrong.’ He has a right to state what his beliefs are,” Pope told CNSNews.com in the same interview.
The suspension was lifted after Pope and Matthew Krause, litigation counsel for Liberty Counsel, met with the school’s principal the following day.
But Mathew Staver, the founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, said that is not enough.
“We believe that the school needs to not only remove all of the suspensions and any kind of record, but that they ought to take an affirmative action to apologize to Dakota, and they ought to take a remedial action against the teacher,” Staver told CNSNews.com on Tuesday.
Staver said teachers should not force their views about homosexuality upon students – or use their positions to bully students and humiliate them in front of their peers.
Staver confirmed Wednesday that the school has removed the in-school suspension from Ary’s record and placed Franks on administrative leave. The school and Liberty Counsel continue to cooperate on the issue.
“We’re pleased with what we’re seeing, but we’re not complete yet,” Staver said.
The Fort Worth Independent School District has declined to comment while a review of the circumstances is conducted. The District released a statement on Sep. 23, which said “no student is suffering any consequences for expressing an opinion nor is there anything on any student's permanent record as a consequence of expressing an opinion.”
This is not the first time the issue of homosexuality has come up in the class, Ary said. Two weeks ago, the teacher pinned an image of two men kissing, taken from the German magazine Stern, to his ‘World Wall.’
“Me and a couple of my friends did not like it at all,” Ary told CNSNews.com. “About half the class didn’t like it at all. So we asked Mr. Franks why it was there, that we don’t need to be seeing that, it’s not appropriate for school. He said I want it there; I want you all to see that.”
The image was subsequently removed by an unidentified student, Ary said.
“We all started defending the person who did it. I still don’t know who it was,” he said. “We all started saying that, that’s wrong, it shouldn’t be there, and that we’re Christians, it’s against our religion.”
Kristopher Franks did not return phone calls or e-mails from CNSNews.com.