Florida High School Student Suspended for Wearing T-Shirt Covered in Condoms, Distributing Condoms in School
A Kissimmee, Fla., high school student on Friday was suspended for wearing to school a T-shirt covered in packaged condoms and distributing the condoms to students, the Orlando Sentinel reports. Lanessa Riobe, a 16-year-old student at Osceola High School, on Friday taped colorful packaged condoms on her shirt and allowed fellow students to remove them, distributing 50 condoms by 8:30 a.m., according to the Sentinel. After Riobe's first-period teacher contacted school administrators about Riobe's shirt and actions, they suspended her for three days for being a "class disruption and having an insolent attitude," the Sentinel reports. Osceola High School Principal Chuck Paradiso later shortened the suspension to one day but said that Riobe's distribution of condoms violated the school's abstinence-based sex education position. He said, "By passing out condoms, you're acknowledging having sex," according to the Sentinel. "That's just not something you do in a public school," Paradiso said (deLuzuriaga, Orlando Sentinel, 11/1).
Riobe said she decided to wear the shirt on Halloween after she saw safe-sex commercials on television, the Associated Press reports (Associated Press, 10/31). Riobe said that she knew many of her friends were sexually active and thought that there would be partying over the weekend because of a Friday night football game and the Halloween holiday. Melissa Riobe, Lanessa's mother, who is HIV-positive, supported her daughter's decision to distribute condoms to fellow students, saying, "Speaking out to her friends is one of [Lanessa's] ways of dealing with this situation. It's a positive outlet." She added that she and Lanessa promote abstinence and "safer sex" to young people "at every opportunity," according to the Sentinel. "If I can save one person from making the mistakes I did, then that's a good thing," Melissa Riobe said. According to Barbara Huberman, director of education and outreach for Advocates for Youth, advocacy is a common reaction for young people whose lives are affected by HIV/AIDS. However, School Board Chair Tom Greer said he supports Paradiso's decision to suspend Riobe because although students have a right to free speech, it must not "interfere with education," according to the Sentinel. He said, "I think she tried to make a statement to the school that I personally find offensive." Patti Nivens, a community-education manager for the Osceola County Abstinence Partnership, which occasionally sends speakers to the high school, said, "Total protection is abstinence. A condom can protect you, but it could break. You could still get HIV" (Orlando Sentinel, 11/1).