TN School Board Removes LGBT ‘Safe Space’ Posters From Campus, Claims They Were Too ‘Sexual’

Screen Shot 2013-08-23 at 4.11.44 PMThe Rutherford County Board of Education in central Tennessee is under quite a bit of fire from the state and national American Civil Liberties Union after deciding to remove all of GLSEN's 'Safe Space' posters (pictured) from classrooms at its Central Magnet School. The reason? The school board claimed the poster's content was too 'political' and 'of an inappropriate sexual nature' because it contained the words 'lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender.'

The ACLU, however, says the school board's claims are "obvious mischaracterization[s]" and "grossly misconstruing the nature of the poster." Additionally, the ACLU says that legal action may be required if steps are not taken to reverse the decision:

"Removal of these posters is a violation of the free speech rights of students and teachers," said Thomas H. Castelli, ACLU-TN Legal Director. "Permitting some student groups but not others to display posters amounts to unconstitutional, discriminatory censorship." 

GLSEN has also responded, stating that many students in Tennessee already feel unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation, which can cause absenteeism, lowered academic achievement, and poorer psychological well-being.  88% of LGBT students in Tennessee have been verbally harassed and 43% have been physically harassed in the past year because of their sexual orientation, according to GLSEN's "2011 Tennessee State Snapshot." 

"Removing a GLSEN Safe Space poster that promotes a positive learning environment free from harassment is alarming given that a majority of LGBT students in Tennessee report feeling unsafe in school because of their sexual orientation or gender identity," said Dr. Eliza Byard, GLSEN's Executive Director. "Every student deserves to feel safe in school and our Safe Space posters, a part of GLSEN's Safe Space Kit, play a vital role in conveying that very message. Students know they have an educator to turn to for support when they see our poster displayed in a school classroom or office."

The school board has yet to respond to the ACLU letter, which can be read here.

Tennessee is no stranger to silencing the voices of LGBT students and allies. The "Don't Say Gay" bill that was reintroduced in the Tennessee Senate earlier this year comes to mind…  


  1. northalabama says

    nashville is so progressive, it’s difficult to imagine the hate spewing from the state capital and neighboring rutherford county. i suspect there’s some christiness involved, pushed by local “religious” leaders and their supporters.

    let’s make an agreement: we won’t teach typing in church, if they don’t teach hate and bigotry in school.

  2. Bill S. says

    Oh yea, that’s real sexual. I popped a boner the moment I saw it. Tennessee idiots. Lincoln should have let these ignorant inbred crackers secede, we’d have been a lot better off without them.

  3. Michael says

    Back in 1978, when I was 7 years old in 2nd grade, in Catholic school of course, is when I first started getting called a fag. It never stopped during grade school so its absurd people think kids don’t have a clue and that somehow showing support for LGBT students is going to sexualize then all.

  4. C.J says

    Couldn’t I argue that any visible school religious club, club poster, sign is violent as so much of the Bible encompasses violent imagery and stories?

  5. Javier says

    It’s things like this that really damage our LGBT youth and make them feel like complete worthless outsiders. I agree that we have A LOT of work to do in our own backyard (notable southern states where I feel LGBT organizations ignore).

  6. Box Games says

    I lived in Tennessee all throughout my teenage years and recently left. I won’t make a generalization about every part of the state, but a majority of the schools I attended, faculty were very vocal in being anti gay. They completely fostered a space where I would relentlessly be bashed every day. I become severly depressed and there was no one I could speak to. I’m sad to read this story, but not surprised. My heart goes out to the GLBT kids out there.

  7. trees says

    The school board’s real, homophobic, interior reading of the poster is “This is a disgusting and inclusive space for…”

  8. northalabama says

    people that have convinced themselves that bigotry and racism are more prevalent in the southern usa are only fooling themselves, and ignoring the facts.

    truth is, the number of hate groups increases along with population, all across the country. check out the “hate map” published by the splc:

    the “new republic” also published an interesting story in march, following recent supreme court decisions on the voting rights act:

    i personally have traveled and spent time in half the states in our country. bigotry is more discreet in some areas, less in others, but hate is alive and well in every state just the same. the “stop and frisk” law wasn’t passed in atlanta, it’s was in new york city.

  9. Michael Vilain says

    I wonder if someone has told the school board that they might loose their litigation insurance by doing this. By removing things that actively help prevent bullying, it can be shown that they are doing *something* to mitigate the problem. By removing such things, their insurance company could just claim it’s their fault and not pay up at the next big ticket lawsuit by a family who lost a child to bullying or some kid who sues for a hostile environment. Would the school board be willing to pay for such litigation out of their own pockets?

  10. andrew says

    The School Board is just blowing smoke up peoples … They don’t have the courage to give the real reason. It is simply stated: LGBT people and their allies don’t deserve a safe place.

  11. Koskalaka Maricón says

    Great,…just great,… Tennessee student safety announcement postings banned on political and sexual grounds. SMH! Hey, Tennessee: It’s okay, though, for you to institutionally bully GLSEN groups while LGBTQI folks suffer individual bullying in their schools,… RIGHT?!?!

  12. kat says

    IF this biased, liberal, GROSS mis-representation of what SCHOOLS are for, then how is it NOT a CIVIL RIGHT to have a poster bearing the 10 Commandments, also??? aclu has ONLY ONE AGENDA here, they will NOT destroy our CHILDREN!!! Poof… go away.

  13. kat says

    To Michael who self professes to have been in Catholic School, were he was called a fag, I must ask, what EXACTLY does that have to do with PUBLIC SCHOOL??? ummm… NOTHING!!!! As for Tennessee being ignorant, that would be ONLY to LIBERAL BRIGHT BLUE and THE COLOR PURPLE STATES, it’s all “o p I n I o n!!!” Can’t fix stupid… if it’s an outie. . . MALE!!!! Real simplistic concept here!!! Get some hormones and a psychiatrist… liberal PROGRESSIVES, leave our STATE and even MORE IMPORTANTLY, OUR CHILDREN ALONE!!!! We have “elected officials” who manage our PROGRAMS!!!!

  14. 1♥ says

    And all you will ever teach children is your hate, because that’s all you will ever have inside you, the hatred that consumes you.