Tuesday, May 15, 2012

High school yearbook story about gay teen creates controversy in Tennessee town

A Tennessee town has been wracked with controversy after an article about a gay high school student was published in the Lenoir City High School yearbook, reports Jeremy Styron of the local News-Herald. "It's O.K. To Be Gay," about student Zac Mitchell, left, and his experience of coming out in a small town, is part of a series of short stories about various aspects of student life.

Principal Steve Millsaps said most community response to the article has been negative, and deferred further comment to School Superintendent Wayne Miller, who wouldn't comment, Styron reported. Dueling Facebook groups were established in support of the article and against it. Lenoir City is in Loudon County, just southwest of Knoxville.

School board member Glenn McNish Sr. told Styron he didn't "think that that type of material has any place in a yearbook." Last week, the board "promised parents and residents that a full investigation will be conducted into the publication," Michael Patrick of the Knoxville News-Sentinel reports. Chair Rosemary Quillen said "All of us are working toward a permanent solution so that situations like this never happen again." Patrick reports, "Journalism teacher James Yoakley, who supervises the school newspaper and yearbook . . . has said that he believes in allowing the students to direct the production of the yearbook." For the News-Sentinel's first story on the issue, go here.

Styron's story included a comparison: "Conspicuously absent from the dialogue about the yearbook was another that appeared in the annual titled, 'Don't Stare,' in which another student recalls how her numerous piercings and tattoos enable her to more fully express herself." (Read more)

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