15 Nov 2010

Video: 14-year-old gay teen defends teacher who was suspended

In a speech hailed as "amazing" and "inspiring", a 14-year-old gay student told a school board that he was bullied by classmates and had considered suicide when he was 9, and defended a teacher who was temporarily suspended for taking two students to task for their racist and anti-gay remarks.

Graeme Taylor, an openly gay 14-year-old student in Howell, Michigan, made a short plea in support of a teacher (from a different school) Jay McDowell who was temporarily suspended without pay earlier this month after telling a student wearing a Confederate flag (which is considered by many to be an overt symbol of racism) and a student making anti-gay remarks to leave his class. 

At a school-board meeting last Friday, Taylor told a roomful of about 100 people about how he wished he had someone to stick up for him the way he believed McDowell did for gay students in the school. He urged the school board to give McDowell his pay and reverse the disciplinary actions. 

"This teacher, whom I fully support, finally stood up and said something. I’ve been in rooms, in classrooms where children have said the worst kind of things: the kinds of things that helped drive me to a suicide attempt when I was only nine years old. 

"The best thing you can do right now is just give him his pay for that day and just reverse the disciplinary actions. He did an amazing thing. He did something that’s inspired a lot of people. And whenever, ever, I have a teacher stand up for me like that, they change in my eyes. I support Jay McDowell and I hope you do too."

According to The Detroit News, the Howell High School teacher was suspended for two days – one with pay, one without – for an Oct. 20 incident in which he disciplined two students who made comments in class that they didn't accept homosexuals.

The Detroit News reported: "The incident began after a student asked McDowell, who was wearing a purple T-shirt to raise awareness of anti-gay harassment for national Anti-Bullying Day, why he had asked a student to remove her Confederate flag belt buckle. A discussion followed, ending with McDowell suspending two students from his class for the rest of the period."

Click here to watch Graeme Taylor explain why he decided to speak up in an interview on Clickondetroit.com.