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W. Orange Middle School Student's 'Lesbians' Shirt Draws Punishment, Praise

Justice Cillo-Smith
Justice Cillo-Smith Photo Credit: Facebook

An eighth-grader from West Orange caused a stir when she wore a shirt proclaiming "We're All Lesbians" to class at Liberty Middle School -- but the school district is now praising the girl's gesture for prompting a healthy dialogue about tolerance.

Justice Cillo-Smith, who identifies as lesbian, was told by a guidance counselor that the shirt violates school district policy prohibiting clothing containing sexual innuendo or inappropriate language, her mother, Gwen Wu, wrote on Facebook.

Wu added that the school's principal said officials were trying to prevent the girl from becoming a target.

But Wu also said that a friend of Justice's wore the same shirt to Roosevelt, the township's other middle school, and was actually praised for it. The shirt refers to "The Prom," a Broadway play about a student who is forbidden from bringing her girlfriend to the prom at their Indiana school.

"Not only did that 8th grader NOT get a dress code violation but she was commended for wearing it in solidarity while at a LGBTQ presentation from Garden State Equality," Wu wrote on Facebook.

Wu also said that her daughter received at outpouring of support at a board of education meeting last week as well as an expression of sympathy from Superintendent of Schools Dr. J. Scott Cascone over the incident.

"When it comes to light that we have fallen short in our mission, what shall we do as a community? We shall not condemn, we shall not judge, we shall not cast out. I say, as a learning organization, let’s come together through honest and heartfelt dialogue, and let’s teach and grow," Cascone told WPG radio.

Gascone also told the station that the incident may prompt a review of dress code policies across the state.

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