You may remember the story a few months ago when a high school in Tennessee refused to allow a student to publish an article in the school newspaper about the pervasively Christian atmosphere at the school and mistreatment of atheist students. I hadn’t kept up with the situation, but it seems things have gotten worse. A few months later, a gay student had an article in the yearbook saying “It’s OK to be gay” — and all hell broke loose.
Much of the community freaked out, of course. Kids were encouraged to rip that page out of their yearbook, the student who wrote it was in fear of her life, and people even demanded a criminal investigation of the teacher who led the yearbook effort — the same teacher who sponsored and worked with the school newspaper in the earlier incident. That teacher rightly stood up for the free speech rights of those students, which got him in trouble with the administration. And they have apparently taken their revenge by transferring him to the middle school:
“I’m fairly certain they transferred me so I would quit,” he said…
The tipping point occurred late in April when the school yearbook that contained an article about a gay student was distributed. He said other teachers complained and opposition in the community began to grow.
“The administration didn’t talk to me for two weeks,” he said.
Shortly thereafter, the principal asked him to resign.
“He said I was improperly influencing my students,” Yoakley said.
Yoakley said he refused to resign and three weeks later was notified of his transfer to the middle school. The loss of the yearbook adviser position cost him $5,000, he said.
A subsequent Freedom of Information request by the Student Press Law Center revealed the pressure that the school administrators were subjected to by members of the community. A number of emails that were described as “vicious and vitriolic,” he said.
The worst part of this, to me, is that it’s entirely unsurprising. It’s so predictable that it’s banal. This is very much in line with the subject of the book I’m working on, which details how those who dare to threaten Christian hegemony, especially in schools, are almost always subjected to this kind of thing — and much worse.
Like Dispatches on Facebook: