Creative Commons/UCC Coalition

Creative Commons/UCC Coalition

Top Talker:
Gay Student’s Story Banned From Yearbook: Was It For His Safety?

Arkansas News reports that a Sheridan, Arkansas school is being criticized for its decision to ban the yearbook profile of an openly gay student that would have included his coming out story. The principal said that excluding the story would prevent bullying. School officials also cut six other profiles when they found out about Taylor Ellis’s story.

In a statement, Sheridan School District Superintendent Brenda Haynes defended the decision saying, “We must make decisions that lead in the proper direction for all of our students and for our community. We must not make decisions based on demands by any special interest group. The seven profiles will not be published in the yearbook.

“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.”

Hannah Bruner, the yearbook editor, approached Taylor Ellis about including his story in the yearbook. She wrote what she calls a positive story and the decision to cut it is shocking to her because it’s not a secret that Taylor is gay. He came out over Instagram last year, so it isn’t news to anyone. Rather, the story is about how accepting everyone has been toward him.

Related: Ask Rene: Is My Son Gay?

I don’t think you can prevent bullying if you ARE the bully. Silencing a potential or actual victim does nothing to prevent bullying and, I would argue, could embolden bullies. But that’s not even the point here as Taylor was already out to the entire school. His mother says that coming out actually made his life easier because it reduced the number of conflicts he had with other students.

Also, I would like to understand what the superintendent means that they “make decisions that lead in the proper direction for all of our students.” What is this “proper direction?” Is the superintendent saying that by not publishing the story, other students won’t be gay?

Under Arkansas law, school administrators are not permitted to censor student publications; however, they can censor obscene, libelous, or slanderous material and material that is an invasion of privacy. They can also prevent the publication of material that might incite unlawful acts or acts against school policy.

I’m not sure how Taylor’s story fits these exceptions. You can read an edited version of the banned story here. It doesn’t sound like it would start a riot.

If I had the reins of power, I would absolutely run the story. There’s nothing inappropriate or titillating about it. Sadly, many heteronormative thinkers equate sexuality and sexual orientation as the same thing when it comes to gay people, and I suspect that is what’s happening here. I don’t think there would be the same inclination to ban the story of a girl talking about her boyfriend or vice versa. Talk to me about not including Taylor’s story when school officials start banning superlatives like “Cutest Couple” from the yearbook on the basis that it’s inconsistent with the mission of the school.

Related: Raising Gaybies: The Mommy Particle

What do you think? Is the school right to ban Taylor’s story from the yearbook? Share your thoughts below.