US: School district under fire after gay student’s coming out story banned from yearbook

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LGBT rights groups have criticised a school district in the US for refusing to publish six yearbook interviews because one of them contained dialogue about an openly gay student.

According to reports, Sheridan High School yearbook editor Hannah Bruner had tried to include the coming out story of gay student Taylor Ellis, but that the school board had instead decided to pull the entire series of bio interviews.

Ellis, 17, had come out via Instagram last year, but said the school’s principal said the story was “too personal” to include in the yearbook.

“I just wanted people to know because my whole life was a lie,” Ellis wrote in the profile which was removed. “I used to be scared to say that I’m gay. It’s not fun keeping secrets; after I told everyone, it felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders.”

“I think that it’s a good thing for people like me to see that it’s OK to be openly gay in school,” Ellis told Student Law Press Centre (SPLC). “[The principal] said that it was personal, but it’s really not that personal because everybody knows. It’s not that big of a deal… It’s just showing other people that it’s OK to be who you are.”

Speaking to the SPLC, Bruner said that she didn’t think publishing the bio would cause controversy, since Ellis was already openly gay.

“I personally I do not think there’s a risk of that because everyone in the school already knows. It’s not a secret,” Bruner said. “He did come out last year and he did it over a social networking site so everyone knows already, and the story, like I said, is talking about how accepting everyone has been toward him.”

Weighing in, the Human Rights Campaign, has sent a letter to the school district calling on it to reconsider the decision, despite that the print deadline for the yearbook has passed.

The HRC said in its letter: “If not resolved immediately, this act of discriminatory censorship will send a dangerous message to all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students in Sheridan, across Arkansas and around the nation — that they are second-class citizens and their lives are not equally valid.”

Ellis said he hoped his story would be published, simply in order to help any LGBT teen feeling alone, who might see it and think twice about harming themselves.