Student comes to teacher’s defense
In October, 2010 on National Anti-bullying Day, a classroom discussion about the rights of individuals turned into a viral video.
Economics teacher, Jay McDowell, of Howell High School in Michigan, wore a purple shirt in support of the anti-bullying message. He noticed a student wearing a Confederate belt buckle and asked her to remove it. Another student questioned the difference between wearing a Confederate flag and a rainbow flag, the unity symbol for the gay community.
The discussion led to the student announcing that he didn’t accepts gays due to his religion. McDowell suspended the student for one day. Then, in turn, the school board suspended McDowell for one day without pay telling him he violated the free speech rights of the student and for wearing a “controversial” purple shirt.
At a school board meeting to discuss the case, 14 year old Graeme Taylor, who was from another school in the area, addressed the board. As an openly gay student, he stated “I’ve been in classrooms where children have said the worse things. The kinds of things that drove me to a suicide attempt when I was only nine years old. These are the things that hurt a lot. There is a silent holocaust out there, in which an estimated 6 million gay people every year kill themselves. He did an amazing thing. He did something that inspired a lot of people.”
In Graeme’s view, Mr. McDowell is a hero. His address to the school board and his appearance on the Ellen Degeneres show can be seen below: