Arkansas School District Won’t Publish Gay Yearbook Story
An Arkansas school district is getting heat from LGBT rights groups for refusing to publish a yearbook story about an openly gay student, citing concerns that it would perpetuate bullying.
Fox 16 KLRT reports that Sheridan High School yearbook editor Hannah Bruner wanted to share the coming out story of student Taylor Ellis, who came out earlier that year via Instagram.
"I just wanted people to know because my whole life was a lie," Ellis wrote in the profile, removed from the Sheridan High School yearbook. "I used to be scared to say that I’m gay. It’s not fun keeping secrets; after I told everyone, it felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders."
Bruner told the Student Law Press Center that she didn’t think publishing the story would cause problems, since the boy had already come out.
"I personally I do not think there’s a risk of that because everyone in the school already knows. It’s not a secret," Bruner told SPLC. "He did come out last year and he did it over a social networking site so everyone knows already, and the story, like I said, is talking about how accepting everyone has been toward him."
And SPLC said that the move violated the student’s rights under the Arkansas Student Publications Act, which requires that school boards adopt publication police that allow students to exercise their right of expression, as long as they are not obscene or libelous.
"I think that it’s a good thing for people like me to see that it’s OK to be openly gay in school," Ellis told SPLC. "(The principal) said that it was personal, but it’s really not that personal because everybody knows. It’s not that big of a deal... It’s just showing other people that it’s OK to be who you are."
The HRC agreed, penning a letter to the school district requesting that they reconsider their move.
"If not resolved immediately, this act of discriminatory censorship will send a dangerous message to all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students in Sheridan, across Arkansas and around the nation -- that they are second-class citizens and their lives are not equally valid," the letter states.
Ellis told SPLC that he hoped the story would be published, not only because he feels discriminated against, but because it was important to share his story with other kids whom it might help.
"There’s people that commit suicide because they’re scared of it, and maybe it will prevent somebody," Ellis told SPLC. "You never know how people may take my story and some people will talk about it, some people will not want to read it or anything, but I mean some people it may help."
Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.