Christian School Board Member Stirs Firestorm in Tennessee Over 'It's Okay to Be Gay' Student Yearbook Article
Van Shaver, a school board member in Lenoir City, Tennessee, outside of Knoxville, is calling for the investigation of James Yoakley, a journalism teacher at Lenoir City High School, after an article about gay student Zac Mitchell was published in the school's yearbook.
Says Mitchell in the article, which details his coming out, donations to gay organizations, a trip to Nashville where he cross-dressed and some "straight guys hit on [him]", and his family's acceptance:
"There will always be people who bully me for being gay, but I don't care. It doesn't affect me and it never has. That's probably why they keep doing it. As a person who is all about love and peace, I know that you can't be fully or tryly happy until you are confident in who you are."
Shaver (pictured), in a blog post called "It's not OK," calls the publication of the article a "despicable act" and calls for an investigation by school administrators and law enforcement over it.
Wrote Shaver on his blog:
In this twisted world we live in, some may believe It's OK to be gay but it's darn sure not OK for teachers to be promoting homosexuality in our high schools....
Mr. Yoakley is also the teacher who a couple of years ago refused to allow the two students Christian based article to run in the Panther Press. So apparently, Mr. Yoakley would discourage Christian values yet promote atheism and homosexuality.
Some might think I'm intolerant toward homosexuals but that would be wrong. If an individual wants to be a homosexual, that's their own decision and they will have to live with the consequences of that decision. What I am intolerant of is an adult, a teacher no less, inflicting their personal beliefs and sexual orientation decisions on impressionable students.
If in fact it was Mr. Yoakley or any other teacher who allowed this article to be published in the year book, they should be dismissed from the school immediately. If it is found or known that Mr. Yoakley or any other teacher at any time has had any conversations or discussions with this student or any other student about their sexual orientation, sexual activities or anything about their private lives prior to those students being of legal age, those teachers should be charged with child sex abuse by an authority figure and arrested.
Knox News reports that petitions are being circulated hoping to deny Mitchell the right to attend graduation, and threats are being made at the student who wrote the article:
The yearbooks were distributed Friday. By Monday, local blogs had taken up the fight both for and against the article and the yearbook's faculty adviser, James Yoakley.
"I have received an unbelievable number of emails from parents and concerned citizens," said Lenoir City High School Principal Steve Millsaps.
According to students, petitions were being circulated urging others to tear the page from their yearbook as a sign of protest during graduation or to deny Mitchell the right to attend the ceremony. The 17-year-old student who wrote the article said she was afraid to have her name published.
"There have been threats made starting with, 'If I found out who wrote the story,' " she said.
Yoakley has been teaching at the school for 11 years, according to the paper.
Adds Shaver in his blog post:
"I and I know many other parents and members of our community expect a full and open investigation by school administrators and law enforcement into this issue and to hold accountable any and all those who had a hand in this despicable act. To my fellow school board members. Contrary to what you have been told and taught, you do have the right and the authority to eliminate substandard employees. Exercise your authority."
(shaver image via knox news)
Make sure not to miss a Towleroad headline by following @TLRD on Twitter.