Administrators at Sheridan High School, located just south of Little Rock, Arkansas, are refusing to include an interview with openly gay student Taylor Ellis in this year’s yearbook. HRC is calling on Sheridan Superintendent Brenda Haynes and Principal Rodney Williams to reverse the decision.
In a letter to both Haynes and Williams, HRC President Chad Griffin said:
"The censoring of Taylor’s story sends a dangerously strong message to all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students – that their experience is not valid and they shouldn’t have the ability to speak about their true self. For young people struggling with their identities, this is exactly the opposite message they should be hearing from school leaders. Instead of affirming Taylor, you have told him and other students who may already feel marginalized, that they are not a valued part of the community.
"Growing up in Arkansas, and in fact attending school in Sheridan for a time, I learned the Golden Rule – to treat others as I would like to be treated. Hiding behind misleading claims about your intentions does not change the fact that you have failed to uphold these values that fair-minded Arkansans share. Addressing bullying requires stopping bullies, not muzzling harmless free expression."
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.
To learn more about HRC's groundbreaking youth survey, visit www.hrc.org/youth.