An Arkansas high school has decided that a teen’s coming-out-as-gay story will not appear in the school yearbook as promised, bringing the teen’s mother nearly to tears.
The school’s yearbook, The Yellowjacket, was to feature the story of 17-year old Taylor Ellis and his experience coming out as a gay teen. Ellis was interviewed and the story already written, but ultimately the Sheridan School District decided against allowing the story to be printed.
Ellis enlisted the aid of The Human Rights Campaign to hold a rally at the state capital to shine a light on the school’s refusal to publish his story. During the rally he said that he just didn’t understand the school’s decision to pull the tale from the yearbook.
“It’s not something I’m ashamed of,” Ellis said. “In fact, I’m proud of who I am. That’s why I can’t understand why my school was trying to force me back into the closet.”
Taylor’s mother was also shocked at the school’s decision. Close to tears, she spoke at the rally in support of her son, saying, “I accepted it, and everybody else needs to accept it as well.”
Also at the rally, the President of The Human Rights Campaign, Chad Griffin, criticized the school.
“This discriminatory exclusion by Sheridan High School Administrators has nothing to do with Arkansas values,” Griffin said.
The school is defending its decision insisting that it has to “lead in the proper direction for all of our students and for our community.”
In a statement, Superintendent Brenda Haynes said, “We have reviewed state law, court cases, and our own policies. It is clear that the adults who have the responsibility for the operation of the District have the obligation to make decisions which are consistent with the mission of our school. We have done so.”
To avoid any claims of bias, the school decided to scratch all the student profiles that were to appear beside Taylor’s profile in the yearbook.
Mr. Ellis, though, said that this incident won’t stop him from being himself. “Keep trucking on, do my schoolwork, get the grades and go home, work, national guard, just keep to myself like I always have.”
By March 19 The Human Rights Campaign had gathered 30,000 signatures urging the school to change its mind on the yearbook profile.
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