Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Bullying as an Excuse for Censorship?

Recently, a high school in my state refused to publish an openly gay student’s profile in the school yearbook. They claimed that its contents would lead to bullying, and that it was too personal for the yearbook.

This feels like a cop-out excuse. The student is openly gay, and his classmates are mostly accepting of his sexuality. His profile story actually told how he’d had a rather positive experience with his classmates since coming out. Publishing his profile would probably have garnered very little negative attention from the student body. (You can read the profile at the end of this article here.) But now, the school’s decision to pull his and five other profiles has blown the whole thing nationwide. A big, glaring spotlight is shining on both the school and the student. What was a small spark of positivity has now become a big dark stain on the school’s reputation. If they were looking to minimalize bullying, they failed…and have never read an internet comment section.

Unwittingly or not, they’ve also told this student that he should hide his true self—the very thing that he expressed had been the hardest thing for him to do.

It’s something I’ve heard from friends through the years. How hard it is to live the lie, pretending to be someone you’re not for fear of backlash, and how good it felt when they finally were able to tell someone.

I think it also shows a lack of faith in their student body, and maybe the prejudices of the adults governing those students. At the very least an overprotectiveness leaning heavily in the wrong direction. And it’s harmful to any students currently struggling with their sexuality who might have benefited from reading about someone who’d felt exactly how they feel now. The school’s decision is telling them they can’t be open, they can’t be themselves.
I hope maybe something good will come of it all. Maybe the school will see the error in their judgment and reverse their decision. Maybe the students will rise above the assumption of their principal that they aren’t capable of acceptance. Maybe the student in question will find strength in the supporters who’ve rallied behind him. I hope he does. More than anything, I hope those who are watching and struggling realize they’re not alone.

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