Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Message of gay and lesbian tolerance deemed “inappropriate” for teens

When a friend of high school sophomore Megan Chase disclosed to her that he was gay, she felt moved to write an opinion piece for her school newspaper about the importance of tolerance of those who seek out same sex relationships. After the piece was published, Principal Edwin Yoder declared it inappropriate for students at the school and ordered the journalism teacher, Amy Sorrell, to submit all future editions of the paper to him in advance of publication for his approval. Assistant Superintendent Andy Melin said school officials did not have an issue with the topic but felt the article, calling for tolerance, lacked balance.

The school, Woodlan Junior-Senior High School, is located in the northeastern Indiana community of Woodburn not far from Fort Wayne. The Allen County school includes grades 7 through 12.

The students attempted to comply with the principal’s new policy but failed to receive their draft back in a timely manner in order to publish it. They have now given up publishing the paper. Since then, student advisor Amy Sorrell has been placed on paid leave while she is being investigated for allegations that could lead to her dismissal. She has not been informed of what the allegations are. Yesterday, at least three students quit the newspaper staff after being informed by Principal Yoder they must resume publication of the newspaper naming him as the publisher.

The free speech issue here is pretty clear. Courts have consistently ruled against censorship of public student newspapers in the past, as they should. We can only hope the Indiana Civil Liberties Union jumps in before too much damage is done.

What is particularly alarming is that the message of tolerance for a segment of the community should be controversial at all. That the principal believes a plea by a high school sophomore for tolerance of gays and lesbians is inappropriate and the assistant supervisor believes lacks balance says a lot about the bigotry that is very much alive in this day and age. It is not the teacher and students who should be on the hot spot but the school authorities who abuse their positions to advance their own prejudices.

Here is the Woodlan Tomahawk editorial (via the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette) written by Sophomore Megan Chase:
We live in a world where we grow up being taught that it is only acceptable for a boy and a girl to be together. So how do you think you would feel if as you grew older and more mature you started noticing people of the same sex as you, rather than the opposite?

I can only imagine how hard it would be to come out as homosexual in today’s society. I think it is so wrong to look down on those people, or to make fun of them, just because they have a different sexuality than you. There is nothing wrong with them or their brain; they’re just different than you. I’ve heard some people say that they think there is a cure to being homosexual. I can’t believe anyone would think that. It’s not a disease, or something that you catch from someone else; it’s something that they don’t have control over. In saying that, I also believe that homosexuality is not a choice. Almost everyone that I talk to says that a person chooses to be gay or straight. That, again, is something that I believe to be very wrong. If people made the choice to be homosexual, there wouldn’t be anyone who committed suicide because they were too afraid of what people would think of them, and kids wouldn’t be afraid of being disowned if they came out to their parents.

There is also the religious aspect to the argument, where people say that if someone is homosexual, they are automatically sent to hell. To me, that seems extremely unfair. So what are homosexual Christians supposed to do? The answer that I constantly get to that question is, “Just don’t acknowledge that they’re homosexual and live a ‘normal’ life.” Excuse me? So they’re just supposed to never find a partner, or marry someone of the opposite sex, have kids, and pretend they’re “normal?” I don’t think that’s right, or fair. I wouldn’t want to believe in something that would condemn me over something that I didn’t even choose.

It is fact that as many as 7.2 million Americans under the age of 20 are homosexual, and of those that have already come out, 28% of them felt compelled to drop out of school due to the constant verbal assault that they experienced after people found out. Now, if you think that is terrible, this is even worse: According to, every day 13 Americans from the ages of 15-24 commit suicide, and homosexual youths make up 30% of the completed suicides. I don’t understand why we would put so much pressure on those people, that they would feel that they have to end their lives because of their sexuality. Would it be so hard to just accept them as human beings who have feelings just like everyone else? Being homosexual doesn’t make a person inhuman, it makes them just a little bit different than the rest of the world. And for living in a society that tells you to always be yourself, it’s a hard price to pay.


Anonymous said...

I wish you were right about courts ruling against the censorship of high school newspapers but the truth is that high school administrators have the final call on what students can an cannot publish.

Comrade Kevin said...

And piggybacking on what anonymous has said, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled as such about twenty years ago.

It's unfortunate that homophobia exists to such a degree, but it's a reminder that we have years to go. But no worries, we will overcome.

Anonymous said...

Since when is an opinion piece required to have "balance?" That's a new one. This principal needs some better talking points to badly disguise his personal prejudice with.

It's nothing unique, unfortunately. We've been dealing with such disservice to the students in Loudoun for years. Here's just the most recent insult:

James Young said...

David would be surprised to learn that I agree that an "opinion" piece is not required to be balanced.

Of course, the problem with this "opinion" piece is that it cites any number of things as "facts" which are, in fact, simply conjecture and wishful thinking, aside from caricaturing opponents of the radical homosexual agenda and Christians.

And the fact is, from the first sentence, this is a plea for "acceptance," not "tolerance."

Anonymous said...

I'm not surprised by that - you are a writer, after all. Of course, exactly the same things you have said here could be said about your own opinion pieces, and you don't have the excuse of being a high school sophomore.

These are her opinions, presented as such. Can you really not withstand a 15 year old girl expressing her opinion? That's pretty weak, James :)