A gay teenager claims he was forced to leave his high school after they gave him an ultimatum — either go back in the closet or find a new school.
Austin Wallis, 17, runs a popular YouTube channel that focuses on his LGBT lifestyle. Six months ago, he came out publicly in a video posted to the channel.
Since his coming out, he has posted numerous LGBT videos, with many featuring his boyfriend. They include “Cute Gay Couple,” “Gay Q and A,” and “Boyfriend challenge baby food,” among others.
The video Wallis published on Feb. 1 is far from cute and playful, as the many that came before.
“Be The Change: gay rights,” features Wallis telling his side of the story as to why he had to leave his high school. His boyfriend sits beside him as Wallis repeatedly breaks down into tears.
In the video’s description section, Wallis apologizes for the tears, stating “this was an emotional video,” and adds, “…things like this should not be allowed in our country, or anywhere, especially in our schools where we shape our children for their future . Children should not be oppressed for who they are. Help us be the change, be the change. Lets fix the world together.”
Wallis explains in the video how two weeks ago he was called to the principal’s office of his then high school. The principal told Wallis he knew he was gay and that he planned to involve his parents. The following day, Wallis and his mother went to see the principal.
The principal allegedly told Wallis that he had to go back in the closet, and remove all of his social media accounts, including the YouTube channel.
Wallis said the YouTube channel “means the world” to him.
Two days later, Wallis decided to leave his high school. He made the choice to leave, but he said he did so because he feared expulsion and did not want to attend a school that found his lifestyle immoral.
Huffington Post recaps a portion of Wallis’ statement:
“I don't want people to think that I left just because of the social media. It was because I can't stay somewhere where I feel like I'm being forced into something that I'm not, or I feel like I'm not wanted by my own principal ... I'm not a bad student. I really want to try and change this. I think it's ridiculous that in this day and age you can be excluded from your own school for being gay. When I came out I knew I was going to have bullies and I knew people were not going to be okay with it. But I never expected it to be from the people who were supposed to protect you from the bullies. Who were supposed to try to stop that. And then they themselves are the bullies,” Wallis said.
Wallis views the school’s actions as “absolutely disgusting” and is shocked they are legal.
Wallis does not identify his high school in the video, but the Observer has learned Wallis attended Houston’s Lutheran High North (LHN).
“The short answer is that if it’s not a government school, if it’s a strictly private school, the First Amendment doesn’t apply to them,” Ken Upton, senior counsel at the LGBT civil rights group, Lambda Legal, said. “If they’re a private school, then I think it’s game over. They’re entitled to discriminate.”
A statement from Wayne Kramer, executive director of the Lutheran Education Association of Houston, was forwarded to the Observer by Dallas Lusk, LHN’s head of school.
“Lutheran High North welcomes all students and their families to the LHN community,” Kramer said in the statement. “We profess and proclaim our Christian beliefs with the foundations and authority taught in the Bible, all within the teachings of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. We respectfully require students to adhere to these accepted values and moral beliefs. Sometimes, as in this case, students have to make choices and decide whether their beliefs align with our community and we respect their choices. We also respect student privacy and do not comment on any individual student or their actions.”
Kramer added that LHN students are barred from promoting “anything sinful,” referring to a “morals clause” in the school’s handbook.
“Lutheran High North reserves the right, within its sole discretion, to refuse admission of an applicant and/or to discontinue enrollment of a current student participating in, promoting, supporting or condoning: pornography, sexual immorality, homosexual activity or bisexual activity; or displaying an inability or resistance to support the qualities and characteristics required of a Biblically based and Christ-like lifestyle,” the clause states.
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod denomination sees “homophile behavior as intrinsically sinful,” according to their website.
“I am a Christian and I love my God, and I don’t feel like this is what He would have wanted, and I don’t feel like excluding someone for who they are is anything near Christian,” Wallis said.