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Arkansas High School Administration Cuts Gay Student's Story from Yearbook

| by Lina Batarags

An Arkansas high school yearbook committee published a student’s coming-out story, only to have administration pull the story in the name of enforcing censorship “consistent with the mission of our school.”

Junior Taylor Ellis announced that he was gay last year via social media. Classmate and yearbook editor Hannah Bruner wrote a profile on Ellis’ coming-out experience with his fellow students, which was supposed to be included in the yearbook.

In response, and instead of publishing Ellis’ profile, Sheridan High School cut all seven student profiles from the yearbook.

Under Arkansas law, students theoretically have editorial control of their publications; this means that administrators are not allowed to censor them. Administrators can, however, censor obscene or libelous material and material that amounts to an unwarranted invasion of privacy.

In response to the school’s principal’s claim that he profiles were pulled to prevent bullying, Bruner said, “I personally do not think there’s a risk of that because everyone in the school already knows. It’s not a secret.”

Bruner added that the focus of the story is “about how accepting everyone has been toward him.”

Ellis, too, wants the story to be in the yearbook. “[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,” the seventeen-year-old student said.

“It’s just showing other people that it’s OK to be who you are,” he continued.

Despite the fact that the profile shed a positive light on Ellis' experience, Superintendent Brenda Haynes considers censoring Ellis’ story as a step leading the school in the “proper direction.”

“We must not make decisions based on demands by any special interest group. The seven profiles will not be published in the yearbook,” Haynes stated on Tuesday.

Ellis, however, fails to see the positive aspect of the decision. Instead, he has expressed that the move appears to be an attempt by the school “to force me back into the closet.”

“It’s not something I’m ashamed of,” Ellis said of his sexuality. “In fact, I’m proud of who I am.”

Sources: http://www.salon.com, http://www.arkansasmatters.com, http://www.arktimes.com

Photo Source: http://www.arktimes.com

 

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