Ark. School Super Defends Decision to Censor Gay Yearbook Story

by Winnie McCroy
EDGE Editor
Wednesday Mar 19, 2014

An Arkansas school district that came under fire from gay groups this week for refusing to publish a yearbook story about a gay student is now defending their stance.

Arkansas News reported Tuesday that superintendent of the Sheridan School District Brenda Haynes defended their decision in a statement.

"We must make decisions that lead in the proper direction for all of our students and for our community," Haynes said. "We must not make decisions based on demands by any special interest group. The seven profiles will not be published in the yearbook."

Haynes said that after reviewing state law, court cases and their policies, it was "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."

The student, junior Taylor Ellis, appeared with supporters organized by the Human Rights Campaign Tuesday at a news conference in the state capitol. The group had collected 30,000 signatures calling for the profile to be published.

Ellis said that he was openly gay, and that it was "not something I'm ashamed of. 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."

The student's mother, Lynn Tiley, said that administrators told her that her son's profile was "too personal" and might lead to bullying. But she said that since Ellis came out two years ago, he has had fewer problems with classmates than before.

"I accepted it, and everybody else needs to accept it as well," said Tiley.

HRC president Chad Griffin, who attended elementary school in Sheridan, said that although school officials are supposed to protect students from bullies, "in this case, the principal and the superintendent are the bullies."

He asked Gov. Mike Beebe and state Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell to help get Ellis' profile published, a spokesman for the governor said "that's a local school district issue. That's not anything we're getting involved in."

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.


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