HRC Blog

NSAA Reverses Decision to Censor Student’s Performance on Gender Expression

Nebraska School Activities Association has reverse a recent decision requiring the winner of a high school speech contest to alter his winning performance for a television audience.

According to the Omaha World Herald, Michael Barth of Gordon-Rushville High School won the competition after performing spoken word renditions of the hit Macklemore song “Same Love” and a poem by Andrea Gibson entitled "Swingset.” Gibson's piece talks about her experience as a pre-school teacher and the kids in the class asking if she's a boy or a girl. The piece's overarching message is that, ultimately, the kids don't care, but the adults do.

Ironically, the NSSA later required Michael to censor the content of the same winning performance for a Wednesday event where winners would perform on Nebraska Educational Television. 

A firestorm of criticism toward the school broke out on Twitter with local voices -- including Michael's own family, friends, teachers and classmates -- showing their support for Michael. HRC staff also reached out and offered support. Minutes before HRC's statement was released, news came down that the NSSA had reversed its decision. 

"Michael is an amazing young person and his award-winning performance is important for all students to hear," said Jay Brown, HRC Foundation's Director of Program Strategies, who spoke with Michael on Wednesday. "It's good to know the NSSA is letting that happen and that LGBT and allied youth in Nebraska who followed this controversy know there is a foundation of support for them in their own backyard."

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