The principal of Sheridan High School recently refused to publish the bio of openly gay student Taylor Ellis in the yearbook – specifically because Taylor was gay.
HRC was in Sheridan earlier this week and delivered more than 35,000 petitions from equality supporters asking the school to reverse its decision. HRC has reached out to Sheridan school administrators, Arkansas Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell and Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe – though so far no action has been taken.
In today’s letter to Secretary Duncan, HRC President Chad Griffin notes:
“It’s simply unacceptable that, rather than respecting Taylor’s peers’ choice to recognise and celebrate this young man in the school yearbook, these school officials have sent a clear message that the courage and honesty Taylor has demonstrated are not valued at Sheridan High School.
“Even though this episode is already attracting extensive local and national media attention, we feel there is still time for the school and the state to reverse course and send a powerful message of inclusion. I have already urged his school, his school district, the Arkansas Department of Education and the Governor of Arkansas to end this censorship. Sadly, they have yet to take action. On behalf of Taylor and his family, I urge you to speak out against this discrimination and urge your counterparts in Arkansas to allow Taylor’s courageous story to be a part of his yearbook.”
The full letter to Secretary Duncan is available here.
HRC’s 2012 Youth Survey reflects the urgent need to ensure schools are welcoming and supportive environments for LGBT youth. The survey found that some of the biggest concerns facing youth include grades and getting into college – but for LGBT youth, their biggest worries were non-accepting families, bullying and harassment, and a fear of coming out. And 92 percent of LGBT youth hear negative messages about being gay.