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Arkansas High School Refuses To Run Openly Gay Student's Yearbook Profile

Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin has written a letter to administrators of Arkansas-based Sheridan High School, who are refusing to run a yearbook profile on openly gay student Taylor Ellis (pictured), demanding they not censor it.

TaylorThe letter reads in part:

Regardless of print deadlines, it would be unconscionable to release the yearbook with the omission of Taylor's well-deserved profile.

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. Instead of respecting the wishes of Taylor's fellow students to recognize him in their yearbook, you have told him and other students who may already feel marginalized that they are not an equally valued part of the Sheridan high school student body.

Cases similar to this have popped up every so often during the past few years.

In 2013, a Texas high school pulled a lesbian couple’s photo from the yearbook and another Texas school refused and then assented to include a yearbook photo of a trans student in a tuxedo.

In 2012, four Colorado yearbook staffers left the publication after their advisor required them to remove a gay couple from a spread on high school relationships. In the same year, a Tennessee school board member protested the inclusion of an article entitled, “It’s OK to be Gay” in the Lenoir City High School yearbook.

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Comments

  1. It would be helpful to know what exactly is in his profile that the school finds objectionable. Just the fact that he says he's gay?

    Posted by: Brian W. | Mar 17, 2014 8:19:28 AM


  2. What a stupid letter to have sent:

    "Instead of respecting the wishes of Taylor's fellow students to recognize him in their yearbook, you have told him and other students who may already feel marginalized that they are not an equally valued part of the Sheridan high school student body."

    I'm pretty sure that's *exactly* what those that decided to pull his profile wanted...

    Posted by: MikeKV | Mar 17, 2014 8:42:03 AM


  3. Great that HRC became involved and sent a letter to the school that will now increase media scrutiny.

    Posted by: SpaceCadet | Mar 17, 2014 10:03:47 AM


  4. If it seems difficult to understand why somebody would be so vicious and malicious, I think I understand the motivation. It's because Jesus.

    Posted by: Steve Rider | Mar 17, 2014 10:03:59 AM


  5. Ah Jesus people...never fails.

    Posted by: rallyxx | Mar 17, 2014 10:10:07 AM


  6. Ah Jesus people...never fails.

    Posted by: rallyxx | Mar 17, 2014 10:10:09 AM


  7. Yes, it would be nice to have a fuller story here.

    This link helps explain the situation:
    http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/03/14/arkansas-students-vow-to-fight-school-over-censorship-of-gay-students-yearbook-profile/

    According to that story, Taylor's profile was his coming out story. School officials, fearing "negative repercussions" against Taylor, nixed the profile feature. At least that's their story. Students say since everyone already knows he's gay, that's not a legitimate concern, and instead of having a discussion with students about the decision, the principal is hiding. Typical.

    It also looks like administrators don't have the right to censor the student publication (without just cause, which this isn't).

    Posted by: Ernie | Mar 17, 2014 10:36:52 AM


  8. To be fair, since no one seems to have seen the text in question, the principal is alleged to have told the student that the letter was too personal, NOT objectionable because he was gay. Given the predilection among contemporary teenagers for 'oversharing', this may or may not have been bad advice. So many kids think that because they know how to manipulate technology, that they are 'savvy', when they are really still immature to understand the implications for their own privacy. It's possible that this principal could have been giving him entirely appropriate advice to dial things back a little. Again, we can't know for sure without seeing the text itself.

    This story may also be getting disproportionate attention from HRC because the President of HRC, Chad Griffin, identifies himself as an Arkansas native and elementary school student in Sheridan.

    Posted by: Hammer and Chisel | Mar 17, 2014 12:08:02 PM


  9. It's ironic that this article is posted by anti-gay writer Dan Villarreal, who once wrote that gay people should "just admit" that we want to use the school system to "indoctrinate children." Maybe the principal of Sheridan High School read Villarreal's disgusting writings and acted accordingly.

    Posted by: Jackson | Mar 17, 2014 12:40:25 PM


  10. @HammerandChisel: There are links to the basic profile Taylor was going to use. It doesn't seem like "oversharing," and his mother approved of it. So there isn't any evidence he needed to dial things back, but even if there were the administration has refused to work with the students, instead canceling the profiles altogether, though it's not clear they have any right to do so. Looks more like cowardice from the adults than anything inappropriate from the students.

    Posted by: Ernie | Mar 17, 2014 2:30:51 PM


  11. I grew up in Fordyce, AR which is the next town south of Sheridan. This isn't surprising at all. We had three openly gay students (out of 76 that graduated) my senior year because one had already come out, while living in Little Rock before his family moved to my town. The other two were black lesbians that grew up in my hometown.

    Sheridan as a town and school district is notoriously known for racism to this day, so homophobia shouldn't be surprising either. I am glad to hear that he was relatively accepted, that is better than my high school classmates lives 10 years ago. I still have issues from the way that I was raised but hopefully he can move out of state and onto a better life.

    Posted by: Jason Young | Mar 18, 2014 5:50:42 AM


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