A Nova Scotia teenager who made international headlines for getting suspended from school after wearing a T-shirt with a Christian message didn’t attend classes on Monday and may be leaving the school for good.
William Swinimer, a Grade 12 student at Forest Heights Community School in Chester Basin, N.S., was suspended last Monday after repeatedly wearing to class a bright yellow T-shirt with the slogan, "Life is wasted without Jesus," despite a request from the principal not to.
On Friday, the suspension was reversed and he was expected to resume classes on Monday, wearing the shirt. The school held a special talk about balancing between religious freedom with students’ rights to not have their beliefs criticized.
But instead, he arrived on campus early Monday morning with his father, who abruptly pulled him out of the school, saying he doesn’t want anything to do with the talks.
"The taxpayer is paying for him to learn his academics as well as the other students and I am not standing for any of this stuff."
The Halifax Chronicle-Herald reports John Swinimer stormed across the parking lot, announced he was pulling his son out of school, waved a copy of the New Testament at reporters and refused to answer questions.
"He will not attend this school unless they are having reading, writing and arithmetic, good old-fashioned academics. When they’re having forums, when they’re having other extra curricular activities, he will not attend that school," he told reporters.
When asked by reporters whether Swinimer will come back to the school when the talks are over, John said: "I’m making a statement here, I’m not answering questions."
But according to the boy’s pastor, William will finish Grade 12 elsewhere.
"William will no longer be attending this school. He will be furthering his education outside this school," Varrick Day told QMI Agency.
District superintendant Nancy Pinch-Worthylake told QMI Agency the move came as a surprise.
"We are very disappointed he is not in school today. We were hoping he would be part of these conversations," she said.
Students at the school told the Chronicle-Herald Swinimer constantly preaches his Christianity to his peers and refuses to stop.
"This thing never was about a shirt … He’s telling kids they’ll burn in hell if they don’t confess themselves to Jesus," Grade 10 student Riley Gibb-Smith said, sporting a white T-shirt with the words "No life is wasted" written in black marker.
Leading up to the suspension, the school’s principal had repeatedly asked Swinimer to stop sporting the shirt, which he said was dismissive of other students’ beliefs, but the school board said the boy was "defiant."
— With files from Allen Rollin