A Tennessee high school journalism teacher has outraged the community after publishing a pro-gay article of a graduating student in the yearbook.
The article called ‘It’s OK to be Gay’, written by an anonymous student staff writer of Lenoir City High School, profiles the experiences of American gay student Zac Mitchell.
As reported by Knoxville News, it describes his coming out story and how he dealt with being bullied. Mitchell also recalls cross-dressing and being ‘hit on by straight guys’.
‘It was alright,’ the 17-year-old says about coming out in the seventh grade. ‘The girls were excited and the boys were pretty much half and half. Some of them didn’t care and seemed like they had always known, but some weren’t okay with it.’
A school board member Van Shaver is calling for the immediate dismissal and a police investigation of James Yoakley, the journalism teacher that published the article.
In his blog, Shaver says: ‘In this twisted world we live in, some may believe It's OK to be gay but it's darn sure not OK for teachers to be promoting homosexuality in our schools.’
He adds: ‘If in fact it was Mr. Yoakley or any other teacher who allowed this article to be published in the year book, they should be dismissed from the school immediately.
‘If it is found or known that Mr. Yoakley or any other teacher at any time has had any conversations or discussions with this student or any other student about their sexual orientation, sexual activities or anything about their private lives prior to those students being of legal age, those teachers should be charged with child sex abuse by an authority figure and arrested.’
The yearbook features many students who have overcome adversity at the school, including disabled and adopted kids.
According to students, petitions from parents were being circulated around the school urging graduates to tear the page from their yearbook as a sign of protest or to deny Mitchell the right to attend the ceremony.
Threats have also been made against the writer of the piece, so she has been forced to remain anonymous.
However in a statement to the local paper, she said: ‘My journalism professor never once pressured us to have certain beliefs.’