THE BLOG
11/30/2012 01:00 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

No Middle Ground: Fighting Gay Censorship at School

If you thought the war on school neutrality policies were finished, you were wrong. A school district in Michigan launched a new salvo at the gay community right before Thanksgiving, suspending a teacher for embracing diversity.

As originally reported, Susan Johnson, an 8th grade performing arts teacher in South Lyon, Mich., was asked by one of her students if he could play a song. Before she agreed to let him play it, she asked the student if the song was violent or had any profanity. The student said no. After he explained what the song was about, Johnson decided the anti-bullying message should be heard.

The song, "Same Love" by Ben Maclemore, follows the struggles of a gay man in lyrics. Johnson said she thought the song was important because, "There's a lot of gay bashing and racial issues going on in our country and I want the kids to feel comfortable in my class no matter who they are."

Before the end of the day, a student complaint had made its way up to an assistant superintendent, Melissa Baker, who decided the teacher should be suspended without pay for playing a song that included "homosexuality," "religious content" and "content discussing political views."

Once again, teachers who stand against bullying, racism and homophobia are being punished by school administrators more worried about offending parents than student health and safety. Even after the repeal of suicide-cluster causing policies at the disgraced Anoka-Hennepin school district in Minnesota, other school districts around the United States continue to mirror and intensify the discriminatory focus of their "neutrality" policies.

In response to the negative media attention, the South Lyon school district put a statement on it's website claiming they are the victims of "misinformation." They say the real issue was that the teacher didn't ask for permission to play the song.

Do they think that makes it any better? Through this censorship policy, the school district is erasing references to gays through a strict control of classroom materials.

Not to mention, the principal told local news station reporters he would have said "no" to the song even if Mrs. Johnson had asked. It's fair to say this suspension was entirely motivated by homophobia.

Despite what South Lyon administrators may think, there is no neutrality on the issues of bullying, racism or homophobia. By telling teachers like Ms. Johnson to shut up, they are firing a warning shot to every other teacher and student in the district who is thinking about sharing messages of acceptance.

How many times have we read about stories like this, shook our heads and walked away? The problem seems to only get worse and worse, and it's time to do something about it.

That's why I'm asking readers to contact the school leadership directly. Share your own bullying experience, or tell them why they should be embracing diversity, not censoring it.

Let's stand up against censorship, bullying and the misguided notion of gay "neutrality." When it comes to our kids, there is no middle ground.

See the original news report below:

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