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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.


1. 2010-11-15 20:10  
It is way overdue that teachers should be allowed to discipline students. It defies logic and their role as guardians that the school administration would support the rights of the racists over the safety and well-being of the more vulnerable students in their school community. Enough is enough. It's time to clean up the schools by weeding out the undesirables. Well done Jay McDowell.

As for the pathetic comments from the Board that it is an administrative decision, are they not aware that the board have not only the right, but also the responsibility to set the policies that the administration has to follow. And if the current board does not have the courage to stand up to the bullies, then they should resign and let others of stronger moral fiber to run the school.
2. 2010-11-15 20:49  
wow, another Michigan story, cool

watch the new Glee "Never Been Kissed" episode this week, my brother is a writer works for Ryan Murphy and I can see his handiwork in the dialogue, plus Darren Criss is super cute and awesome singing Teenage Dream, Michigan boys are tough

righ now the new ugly battle in the USA is the straight pride movement and grandstanding in high schools
3. 2010-11-15 21:14  
Bravo to this kid AND to his teacher. Unbelievable that a teacher can't even put a child out of a classroom these days without incurring disciplinary actions.
4. 2010-11-15 21:20  
i remember my high school days... i have been in fights with straight boys, and i usually beat them black and blue .. lol
5. 2010-11-15 21:26  
the kids have balls of steel. A student fighting for the rights of his teacher. Thats rare and took alot of courage
6. 2010-11-15 21:34  
Is Mr Jay the teacher gay as well? It's not been mentioned, has it?

That child, is just... hard to imagine he's real. I can't imagine a 14 yo here in malaysia even sounding like half the man he is, let alone a 28yo.

Would be heaven, if we could erase shame from our vocabulary.
7. 2010-11-15 21:41  
That kid is amazing! He'll do well in life! Good luck to him and shame on the board for suspending the teacher.
8. 2010-11-15 22:14  
There's hope. =)
9. 2010-11-15 23:38  
I m inspired by this young kid, brave n wise i think...

10. 2010-11-16 00:40  
This kid was raised well by his parents. Those bad things he experienced didn't stop him from expressing himself as a gay kid but instead he used it to inspire and make people be aware that being gay isn't wrong! Graeme is a shining star to all those who are lost and afraid to speak up! Bravo! :D
11. 2010-11-16 03:03  
Sounds to me that the 14 year old ought to be the chairman of the School Board. At least he knows what he is talking about. The chair with the rug seems not to know the role of the Board...policy making and direction..Who taught her how to pronounce micro manage ? Not about Board management ? Does the Board not have anti discrimination policy ? Does the School Supervisor not report suspensions ? To the Board . Are teachers ,under the Board policy..it should be a policy issue, allowed to suspend students ? The Board can say it does not take daily decisions or those which belong to the School Admin .but decisions must be within the policies set by the Board. Do those policies allow rascist or anti gay remarks in class ,,in school ? Will Howell still live up to its reputation ? Good luck !
12. 2010-11-16 03:03  
Sounds to me that the 14 year old ought to be the chairman of the School Board. At least he knows what he is talking about. The chair with the rug seems not to know the role of the Board...policy making and direction..Who taught her how to pronounce micro manage ? Not about Board management ? Does the Board not have anti discrimination policy ? Does the School Supervisor not report suspensions ? To the Board . Are teachers ,under the Board policy..it should be a policy issue, allowed to suspend students ? The Board can say it does not take daily decisions or those which belong to the School Admin .but decisions must be within the policies set by the Board. Do those policies allow rascist or anti gay remarks in class ,,in school ? Will Howell still live up to its reputation ? Good luck !
13. 2010-11-16 03:51  

Where are the cries of censorship from the left?? Oh, yes, they only cry censorship if they are the ones having their opinions stifled.

While I admire the strength of this young boy and applaud his right to stand up for his beliefs, I condemn the teacher for overstepping his role.

I do not know what words were exchanged between teacher and student and classmates, ( as they are not printed in the article above) but I strongly believe that it is not the place of a public school teacher to punish students for wearing a belt buckle or having a disagreement on wether or not they accept homosexuality. In a society that values free speach, everyone is entitled to express their opinion, even possibly offensive ones.

14. 2010-11-16 05:11  
Kuman - a teachers role is to maintain a safe learning environment and to engage the students at many levels and not just strictly the words on the lesson plan for the day. If a person comes to class and is disruptive in the sense that they sprout hate, then a teaching is in order and the teacher had not only every right to do what he did, but also a moral responsibility to do so. Dare I say that the narrow blinkered view of what a teachers role is has in a large part created the poor classroom discipline and resultant poor learning outcomes that plague many schools today. A teacher is an educator darling; not just in maths or in science but also in how a human should conduct themselves in a civil society.
15. 2010-11-16 05:11  
it only get's better....keep it up
16. 2010-11-16 05:23  
I applaud both Jay McDowell and Graeme Taylor.
17. 2010-11-16 06:42  
"The right to swing my fist ends where the other man's nose begins."
-- Oliver Wendell Holmes

This little gem of American jurisprudence is where Kuman's comment falls apart. If hate speech has been causing injury (and we know it has) or is being translated into violence (which also happens), then the speech is no longer necessarily protected as "free speech", ignoring for a moment that the circumstances here (a classroom) are not quite the same as normal circumstances. If the students were disruptive of the lesson, then they were properly removed. Also as the commenter admits, he does not know what language was used by the students in order to make the judgment call whether or not it was offensive enough or disruptive enough to warrant the teacher taking action. Where, one wonders, is the right's indignation over a teacher's punishment that puts his word beneath that of his students'? Sorry, that only comes into play when the stand taken supports their ideology. Sadly, what is essentially a conservative stance (i.e., the right and duty of a teacher to be in charge of his/her classroom and students) has taken a back seat to acceptance of racist and homophobic speech by students interrupting a class, for the simple reason that the disruptive speech is directed at targets they hate. So much for values....
18. 2010-11-16 07:21  
Yes it is time to stand up to bullies, in school I was shorter then most, cuter then most ;) and had more GIRLS after me then most "and I did nothing to bring them to me" but I have been gay since I was born ... the Girls stud up for me, others where shocked how I could belittle bullies just with words.. only in 1 Fight in HS after that day NO ONE bothered me.. LOL the whole HS found out this gay boy knows martial arts and kicked ass over the 5'10" bully I was only 5'2" ;) its time to stand up to the Mental insecure bullies of the world.. Hi-5 to this young man and About time a teacher stands up and says its MY JOB TO STOP SUCH BS in the class room!
19. 2010-11-16 07:40  
Let the ACLU share their thoughts

"The staff attorney for Michigan's American Civil Liberties Union chapter, Jay Kaplan, tells The Lookout that the case represents a "balancing act" between protecting free speech and creating a safe school environment, but that both students were most likely protected by the First Amendment. "Wearing [the Confederate flag] on the belt buckle probably is protected speech," he said, based on court precedents. "The situation where the student expressed his disapproval of homosexuality is also protected speech."

20. 2010-11-16 08:03  
I'm loving this story. Takes a great mind of maturity and confidence to deliver a speech that is direct, eloquent without being needy or attacking.
21. 2010-11-16 08:33  
" In a society that values free speach, everyone is entitled to express their opinion, even possibly offensive ones."

Free speech against gay is against the laws in Canada. Minimum penalty is $10,000 will be rewarded by the Human Right Tribunal. Assault or Battery due to dislike of gay are criminal here if your free speech is over excited become physical action or contact.

As far as Canada is concerned. Our human right protection is far ahead of USA. It is time for USA to learn how to protect its own citizens before you can tell Iraq people you are wrong. Please watch the latest movie, FAIR GAME. I was shocked because I did not know it is base on a true story. My GOSH.

Free speech against gays in public has no space in Canada. Maybe you can do it within the church or religion building. Our Canadian dictionary calls it "Discrimination", Perhaps Americans call it Free Speech. No wonder so many gays had committed suicide lately in USA. Ummm the price of American free speech. Paid by American blood. Worth it?

Make anti gay History ! We can if we unite and let our grievances heard like the boy. He is cool. Well done.
22. 2010-11-16 08:54  
Canada and USA are the only countries in North America but our value and society are very far different.

Since gay marriage became legal in Canada. We no longer use your wife or husband in any application form in public and private. We name it your spouse.

Our school's education is very different from USA. For example, in British Columbia province of Canada will have a gay love story telling in the class as part of the education about love. When the BC school board wanted to take it to the class for 7 years old school kids, many parents against it and fought all the way to the Supreme Court of BC. Well, the school board won because the court could not differential gay or straight love since our laws accept love is love regardless gay love or straight love. Love has to be taught as young as they can understand, therefore the school board is making the right direction following our Canadian laws. The Court warned if any parents have intention to remove their kids from the lesson (gay love story telling), the government will take them to court. Education is belong to Canadian government, which parents can't customize it base on their personal religion and beliefs.

School is a very important place to make new Canadian generations completely accept and respect gays as part of the society with the same rights they have. No more No less. "Make anti gay history".
23. 2010-11-16 09:51  
Salute to Jay McDowell. He had fulfill the greatest duty of a teacher. A teacher is suppose to correct and guide the student morally to be a better person (Not being racist). For the world to become a better place we need more of such teachers who will teach the kids tolerance and acceptance (The Great Love). Jay McDowell you have my support.
24. 2010-11-16 10:48  
Nice comments regarding the issue kazukicanada but please do not exclude the several other countries that also make up North America - it is offensive and incorrect to say that Canada and the USA are the only two!! Check an atlas!
25. 2010-11-16 11:11  
The world is so lucky that he did not go through with his suicide attempt at 9. If so we would have lost a brilliant gem of a human being, no thanks to all the ceaseless bullying
回應#26於於2010-11-16 11:53被作者刪除。
回應#27於於2010-11-16 13:19被作者刪除。
28. 2010-11-16 11:57  
An amazing young man... but you dont have to be a great orator or as brave as he is to achieve something in the 'war' between gay men and women and bigots. Just be yourself

Nice cop out on behalf of the school board. They didnt even have the guts to say something supportive. Just shows whose side they are on
回應#29於於2010-11-16 13:18被作者刪除。
30. 2010-11-16 12:35  
What is also worth noting is that the student who took the defense of the teacher are not even in the same school.
As for the school board, the KKK influence is not far from Howell.
It's not getting better, is it ?
回應#31於於2010-11-16 13:18被作者刪除。
32. 2010-11-16 16:03  
darren criss is also a University of Michigan graduate and a cutie

hey support the trevor project www.trevorproject.com

our polo team is doing so
33. 2010-11-16 17:33  
Why are we surprised by the bigotry and hate with mainstream Consevative Middle America, Its rife. The country is a basket case
34. 2010-11-16 18:16  
Brilliant, it's nice to hear someone so eloquent expressing his views in a compelling and considered way.
35. 2010-11-16 18:51  
I just wish more people like this young guy. He is more brave than the whole Asian nation together. It a shame that in 2010 we still have to deal with this problem.
Bless you, Graeme Taylor
36. 2010-11-16 19:40  
Kumans thinking is a perfect example of why USA has a totally screwed up society. How dare you suggest that free speech should in any way take precedence over the safety and well-being of anyone let alone the very vulnerable students who are the victims of the bullies. Your blind adherence to the free speech laws of the USA rather than the moral and legal obligation of schools to protect their students is the ultimate in ignorance.
37. 2010-11-16 20:53  
My revenge is that I get to sleep with hot boys, and the breeders get to give birth to children and grow a gut of shame with a wifey ball of chain and a mortgage that would make his wardrobe cry insane... I am not an advocate for violence but over time, Look at me and look at them straights, it's just silly they haven't taken a gun to their head knowing life is crystal balled out with such dreadful future... Yays to the gays
修改於2010-11-16 20:54:20
38. 2010-11-16 22:05  
Mr Andys370: I do not suggest any such thing as you accuse me of. I remember being taunted in school and it was not fun - the fat kid with the lisp ( I dislike that word since it accentuates my speech impediment). I do not support hate or violence in any form, nor do my past remarks in this post or any other ever suggest that.

I criticized the teacher for shutting down debate and discussion - a tactic common to those that preach "inclusion and tolerance" and overstepping his role as a teacher.
Again, since the article above gives no indication of the words exchanged, we really have little to base our opinions on except innuendo.
There are procedures one must follow, and clearly since this teacher was suspended he must have failed to follow proper procedure ( possibly such as calling a school official to the class, etc).

My opinion would be that this whole thing was incited by the teacher who should not be discussing issues like this in class in the first place. Issues of such a sensitive nature belong to the family. Governmental institutions should not supplant the duty and right of family authority and values. However, if a teacher enters into the fray, he or she should at least allow for open discussion and debate -

On a side note: The Confederate flag is a historical relic from our countries past and has many meanings from the benign to the sinister, as many symbols do. My cousin wears one because he is an historical re-enactor and portrays a Corporal in the Confederate Army. Yes - of course he must be a racist and bigot, but for an intelligent debate, ask his black wife and mulatto children, I am sure they will argue otherwise.

Your arrogogant use of the phrase "How dare" and your accusation of a screwed up US society are laughable -feign indignance as much as you wish, you are not the final arbiter of right and wrong. America is of course imperfect, but it is a beacon of freedom and opportunity the world over, as evidenced by the people willing to risk their life to come here illegally, not to mention those that follow lawful procedure.
39. 2010-11-16 23:12  
to Andy370,
Trust me, most of us agree with you and there is no need to bring up the matter against Kuman. Just ignore him like the rest of us did and you'll find out that that's the best way to treat him. He is not worth the effort.
40. 2010-11-17 19:55  
Thanks bjchub - I have seen Kumans drivel on other subjects as well but his warped sense of the world shouldn't go unchallenged as it is attitudes such as his that I blame for the screwed up situation we find ourselves in today. Freedom of speech comes with responsibilities and is not absolute.

Well done for criticizing the teacher Kuman but you already admit that you have no idea of what actually occured. Do you honestly believe that the teacher raised the topic for class discussion and the two nuff-nuffs were having a civil debate and contributing in a positive way to the discussion? Is it remotely possible that maybe they were just interrupting whatever the class was doing that day and started sprouting foul-mouthed insults or threats or otherwise behaving in a disruptive and threatening way?

If you take your head out of your arse Kuman you might just start seeing what is going on in the world.
41. 2010-11-17 22:18  
Well, Andy370, you get an "A" for making me laugh. See you and I can actually agree on something, every right comes with a responsiblity and I have never disputed that. Based on Fridae's reporting of this incident, it seems none of us know fully what actually occured that day in class, so any of our comments relating to that are conjecture at best. Words of support for the young boy Graeme are without dispute.
It is a pity that you misunderstand my sense of the world, as I live every day of my life committed to the dignity and respect of each individual and the unique value of each human life. I never countenance any behavior or action contrary to such practice. There is no room in my life for hatred, envy or bigotry. As a practicing Christian, I am reminded daily of the greatest of God's commandments, to "love thy neighbor as thyself". Even if one does not believe in God, few could argue that is a successful way to live.

I am always wary of those that try to control thought or speech, but if you support that, you are clearly in good company with Pol Pot, Stalin, Mao Tse Tung, Hitler, Mussolini and many others. I prefer freedom, even imperfect as it is , to those that would try to control the thoughts and actions of others.
42. 2010-11-17 23:06  
Freedom of speech in the classroom?...if we spoke out of turn our teacher threw chalk or a large wooden blackboard cleaner at us...accurate and painful... or walloped us with a big slipper he kept in his desk...if we were wearing the wrong thing we were sent home to change...

never did me any harm aaarg mwahahaha...back to atzlan_oz's place now to play with the corpse in the attic.
43. 2010-11-18 05:02  
In the internet age, it's easy to get riled up about a news story that fits your pre-conceptions of the world.... very soon you have a feeding frenzy.

As usual, the facts on this story are not clear yet. Not least the extent to which the teacher did or did not "shut down" student opinions. Local news media report one student said his Catholic beliefs didn't allow him to support gays on the day intended to raise attention about bullying, including bias against gay students. He was apparently ejected from the class.

Maybe it's better if a lot of folks zipped up until the facts were clearer. Isn't it just possible that there are legimate but conflcting rights here? And as a gay community, can we stop acting like a robotic rent-a-mob that screams homophobia and won't even reseach the story to see if there is another side?

I want my rights protected as a gay man, but those rights aren't Gay Rights - they're Human Rights - dignity, freedom of expression and worship, privacy, etc. Which means we have to get along togther and respect each other and accept other people have rights. Do you really think this story is as simple as "teacher punished for protecting gay students from nazis"? No, so let's grow up a bit, let the facts come out.
44. 2010-11-18 13:38  
As a college teacher I think 'stick' is not a constructive way to discipline students no matter in or out of class ,though I do selute the bravity of McDowell.We teachers all met with occasions when some of them bubbled over the hate of gays or homophobia mindset,and what we might do was either we tried to ignore it or dared not to touch on it becouse it's so sensitive and the socity is still strongly tilted against us.Mostly in fact we almost cant do more in class since their growing-up are surrounded with homophobia or fear of gays from family,society and so on.Even in Singapore where is bragged as free world they have Section 377A,we might be shocked at first when we read that but it at least showed that we are not free at all.
The wonderful commends or hope was seen from #21 and 22.One day when we in class are able to convey the love story of gays,vivid gay image and our life,we will really likely get free from hate of us.We cant compel others to love us,but we can learn them to respect us by letting them know who we are.I always like those gay teachers who can bring up gay topics in class .
So free is Canada to gays,How come that message is not strong enough to let all of us and them to hear!
45. 2010-11-18 15:06  
Goes to show: It is not what you are, but WHO you are.

That is one mature boy over adults who are lost in their makeup political games and jaded eyes.

Perhaps it is time the world relook at the messages for truth and purity in our young again.
46. 2010-11-18 18:00  
Graeme Taylor's maturity and sensibility at his young age is admirable indeed. The article doesn't mention the ages of the suspended students. I guess they must be in their mid teens, as high school students.

I was just thinking that, had I been the teacher, I might have taken the opportunity to put a few questions to those students to try to understand exactly WHY they were anti-gay (and pro-slavery?)

My reasoning is quite simple: these young people are just going by what the bigoted adults in their lives have drilled into them. Often, they have not even gone into the logic of such issues; their beliefs are all emotionally derived. By getting the students to articulate on these issues and explain them logically, they can be made to realize the fallacy of their own ideas from the contradictions they face in their own arguments. Simply shutting them up only creates the opposite effect; it just serves to reinforce their wrong beliefs.
In fact, I may even have conducted an impromptu debate in class at that point, on something like, “Is being gay a choice, or is it in someone’s nature to be gay?” To the “it is a choice” lobby, one of my questions would have been, “Why do you call someone like Justin Bieber gay when he is usually seen around girls and hardly ever around boys”? Of course, they will have to reluctantly concede that he “acts and sounds like a gay person”, meaning it is his nature they are referring to, not his choice, thereby contradicting their own initial supposition that it is a choice. Then, the next debate would be, “should you hate someone for being born in a certain way”, followed by “who has the right to decide which natural personal characteristics should invite violent hatred?" And so on.

There are many such questions that one may raise, including on this whole process of choice:
“How come the straight guy never made this choice to be gay?"
"What prompted the gay guy to make this choice?"
"Is there a formal choosing ceremony, where some guys choose, and others don’t?"
"How, when, where, and at what age does this choosing take place? Who organizes it?"
"Does this choosing procedure vary from country to country? If not, how did they become similar? Is there an international coordinator?"
"How come the straight guy wasn’t invited to this choosing ceremony?"
"At what point in history did people decide to start making such choices? Who started this whole business of choosing?"
"Can the straight guy explain how the gay guy goes about making this “choice”? Does he stand in front of a mirror and say, “I choose to be gay, to give up girls, to give up straight life, etc.?” Or, are there some kind of chanting, rituals, etc. involved?"
"Oh, you know nothing about it? But you seemed to be such an expert on this choosing process, didn’t you? How come you claim to know more about gay people than gay people know about themselves?"

Perform "reductio ad absurdum", that is, reveal to them the absurdity of their own reasoning, simply by asking questions; you yourself make no assertions whatsoever.

By the time I'm done with them, even if they doggedly hold on to their earlier views out of pride, the fire and intensity will be gone because, whether they like it or not, their subconscious mind will now disagree with them, and also, they will also realize how silly they sound to their own classmates to hold on to their old views after having themselves exposed the contradictions in their own reasoning. I don't think I would need to send them out. They would have sent themselves out.

If the school objects to these discussions later, I will make it clear that all I did was ask questions; I made no statements at all. Conclusions drawn were entirely by the students themselves. For my own protection, I may even video record the whole proceeding. Let the school try to penalize me for asking questions. I will be very interested in their justifications. And, I may decide to go public with this video later, if so provoked. Let these questions reach a larger audience, and let’s see what happens.
47. 2010-11-19 20:34  
Kuman U forgot to add pope RATzinger in your list or the names of other 'christian' luminaries
sad about the USA.. land of the brave..land of the free ...cough cough. the tea party had a talented African American dancer ousted from 'dancing with the stars' in favour of Sarah (serial Mom) Palins wooden daughter no wonder this former superpower is in terminal decline, how mean spirited these people have become even to their own even white Australians don't sink so low these days.
OH and as for 'kumabro_oz' and it's inane sad queer commentry such a DUH!. I wonder if it's visually as it is intellectually deficient? it appears it doesn't have the courage to add a real pic to it's dim witted pointless snorting.. that'll do pig that'll do.

修改於2010-11-19 21:14:51
回應#48於於2010-11-20 04:07被作者刪除。
49. 2010-11-20 04:13  
#41, Kuman10127
"I prefer freedom, even imperfect as it is , to those that would try to control the thoughts and actions of others."

I fully agree with #36 Andy. Khuman. Do you know your problem? It isn't about the detail between the student and teacher. The issue is about your mindset.

Look at how you said above. No one is controling your thoughts. You have to keep it to yourself instead of hurting others if it does. Does Canada have freedom of speech? We DO but not at the expense of others. Do you see the different? If you are American, it is time to learn Canadian's way of freedom. Freedom comes Responsibility. It is Canadian value. I LOVE freedom, that's why I am Canadian. I LOVE freedom but not at the expense of others. It is called selfish.
50. 2010-11-21 00:45  

I have finally found what appears to be the words spoken by the students that were kicked out of class.

The transcript below from from NPR, (for those that like a liberal leaning POV)

Making the assumption that this information is accurate ( I found several confirmations in deeper search on the net), it appears the words spoken were relatively innocuous and simply a difference of opinion. That is exactly why I would condemn the action taken by the teacher.

I do not advocate, and in fact I refrain from, using incendiary comments directed at people. I do not support or encourage people to say mean spirited things, but the fact remains the best way to combat opposing attitudes is dialogue not tight fisted pummeling.

Maybe the teachable lesson here is that life often puts us in places where we disagree with others and that some people actively seek to hurt others and one has to work to buck up and steel themselves against the puny minds of the opposition. I do not look back fondly upon any tough days I had in school, but I survived them and I am much stronger in character today for any adversity I have experiences in my life.

From NPR.

High school economics teacher Jay McDowell says he didn't like where the discussion was going after a student told his classmates he didn't "accept gays,'' so McDowell kicked the boy out of class for a day.

In return, the teacher was kicked out of Howell High School in Michigan for a day — suspended without pay for violating the student's free speech rights.

The incident has sparked intense debate in Howell, about 45 miles northwest of Detroit, over defending civil rights without trampling the U.S. Constitution's right to free speech. It's gained far wider attention since a local newspaper released video of a 14-year-old gay student from another city defending McDowell at a Howell school board meeting.

On Oct. 20, McDowell told a student in his classroom to remove a belt buckle with the Confederate Flag, the symbol of the southern confederacy that seceded from the United States over slavery, kicking off the Civil War in the 1860s.

She complied, but it prompted a question from a boy about how the flag differs from the rainbow flag, a symbol of pride for the gay community.

"I explained the difference between the flags, and he said, 'I don't accept gays,''' said McDowell, 42, who was wearing a shirt with an anti-gay bullying message.

McDowell said he told the student he couldn't say that in class.

"And he said, 'Why? I don't accept gays. It's against my religion.' I reiterated that it's not appropriate to say something like that in class,'' McDowell said Monday.

McDowell said he sent the boy out of the room for a one-day class suspension. Another boy asked if he also could leave because he also didn't accept gays.

"The classroom discussion was heading in a direction I didn't want it to head,'' McDowell said.

McDowell soon received a reprimand letter from the district that said his actions violated the students' free speech rights as well as school policy. It also said he "purposefully initiated a controversial issue'' by the wearing the T-shirt featuring the anti-gay bullying message.

51. 2010-11-21 06:07  
52. 2010-11-21 06:19  
"Does Canada have freedom of speech? We DO but not at the expense of others."
If only things were that simple. Look at the case of Mark Steyn...

Freedom of speech that doesn't allow for upsetting, infuriating or insulting anyone else isn't freedom. It's self-censorship. If you believe in freedom of speech, you have to defend nasty jerks who want to upset other people. If you won't defend them then don't pretend you believe in freedom of speech.

No, I don't believe it's an absolute right, but nor do I see how FoS cannot, at times, come at the expense of other people's right not to be offended.
回應#53於於2010-11-21 09:40被作者刪除。
54. 2010-11-21 13:06  
#52 "Freedom of speech that doesn't allow for upsetting, infuriating or insulting anyone else isn't freedom. It's self-censorship. I don't believe it's an absolute right, but nor do I see how FoS cannot, at times, come at the expense of other people's right not to be offended."

See how Canada handle your concern betweem FoS and individual rights being gay.
No matter how we define Freedom of Speech. I believe Canada has the most well balance one. Canadian Chartered Rights and Freedom covers freedom of speech, religion, individual rights (like being gay) & more. There have been few law sues about freedom of speech went up to The Canadian Supreme Court. The court seems care more to vulnerable individual or victim instead of individual who speak out to hurt or causing negative outcome (like suicide) of his/her speech. I was very pleased what Canadian Supreme court has done so far to protect our freedom of speech (especial against the government policies or moves) and of cause the right being who you are and free of religion. Well the freedom of religion, which should be kept to your private life or within your own religion members or building. Any speeches that may cause negative impact on other right is not going to be acceptable in our Supreme Court. For example, publich against gay due to his/her religion, especially in school. We don't have room for it because gay is legal acceptable by our constitution.

Bear in mind that, Freedom of Speech comes with responsibilities. It is not like 007, a license to kill. hahahaha

Well, First of all, Gays have equal right in Canadian Constitution, unlike USA. You can't blame Americans bully gays because its constitutions, law makers and politicians allow them to do so.

Second, Look at the numnber of gay suicide due to bullying in USA in comparison to Canada.

It is time for USA to look into how to make Freedom of Speech in a more balance between two different rights like Canada. There isn't a perfect law, there is a reasonable well balance law to protect everyone. Law isn't fixed, law is evolving. That is the beauty of it. Time to learn, America.

Canadian have different value as far as Freedom of Speech is concerned. That's why we were the first English Speaking country to legalize gay marriage.

# 52, You are not wrong, we just don't have the same value system even thought both of us belong to western democracy. I believe Canada is a unique country. We enjoy both freedom of speech in religion and individual rights. I am truely proud of Canada. Not even my native country - Japan.
55. 2010-11-21 20:18  
Freedom of speech (FOS) is often cited as a reason US citizens feel that it is ok to say whatever and whenever they like regardless of how it may affect others. It really annoys me that people who want to exert their right to FOS often overlook their responsibility to exercise that right in a way that does not trample over the rights of those who they are affecting. While the student has the right to a religious view, that does does not override the gay persons rights to be treated as equal and worthy people. Nor does FoS over-ride the gay students rights to a safe and inclusive classroom. Since when does religion dictate how everyone has to live, think, and be?

The teacher, who presumably knows the individuals involved and has the benefit of hearing the tone and observing the body-language of those involved is in a far better position to exercise his professional judgment and diffuse what could have become an ugly confrontation than our friend Kuman can possibly hope to draw from a typed version which I daresay is less than accurate as I don't believe that classes are recorded or have qualified court-reporters typing away in the background.

I find it slightly amusing and greatly infuriating that Kuman cannot accept that teachers have the right and responsibility to control and direct the classroom discussion. If Kuman is advocating a full and free discussion then why have teachers at all? Let's just get Kuman to email in a topic of the day and we'll let the students say and do whatever they want shall we?

Just because the student in question didn't accept gays because of their religion does not mean that they have the right to use a classroom discussion to tell the gay students that their religion does not accept them as people with equal worth and value as straight people. In fact the student not only doesn't accept gays, they wore a buckle which was commonly accepted as an anti-gay symbol.

I was particularly interested in this paragraph in post #50......McDowell soon received a reprimand letter from the district that said his actions violated the students' free speech rights as well as school policy. It also said he "purposefully initiated a controversial issue'' by the wearing the T-shirt featuring the anti-gay bullying message.....

This raises 2 questions in my mind.

1. why is anti-gay bullying a controversial issue in this school?

2. what school policy would prohibit a teacher from taking any action that they reasonably believe necessary to create a positive learning environment and ensure the safety of all students in the class?


Just as a by the way Kuman - why is it that you hide your face in your profile picture? I can't accept the word of people who hide their true identity. It's not against my religion but it is against my principles.
56. 2010-11-21 22:50  
Dear Andys - as to your concern about court reporters in the classroom, if you read the NPR article, you will see that the person being quoted is the teacher that was suspended. I accept that he is likely telling the truth, as it would not benefit his cause to indicate such benign language was the cause of his suspending the students.

As to control in the classroom - I am not some wide eyed libertarian that thinks anyone can say anything at anytime without facing the consequences of their words, but the basis for debate such as the teacher was engaging the class in by wearing his shirt can only be fulfilled by expressing opinions and thoughts and discussing them, not by kicking out people that disagree ( even politely, as it appears it was).
Just having a different opinion and expressing it is not necessarily creating disorder in a classroom. I think the teacher created the disorder by wearing a shirt like that to school and allowing this discussion to exist, after all this is a class on economics, not a sociology class.
I agree and fully support discipline and restraint in my daily life, especially in public discourse, as we need a level of both to co-exist peacefully. Regrettably the greatest cause for failings in our society today is the elevation of the individual over that of the group. So often the focus of politically correct thought and action has led to an impossible minefield to traverse. We do not have a freedom from being offended. Individuality is important, but getting along is important too and occasionally we have to voluntarily live within the confinements of normative social behavior in public, or invite and accept the consequences.
Maybe the best esteem builder is to teach young people that their self worth is not dependent on the approbation and approval of others, but rather living a life of personal integrity, being true to yourself, regardless of what those around us say, think or do.

I am not quite certain about your claim that I hide my face here and your claim I am hiding my true identity, as my face is clearly displayed in my photograph. While I may not provide personal information about the name of my business or home residence, I think as a rule I have been very open about who I am and my life history, when it was relevant to the subject at hand.

If it helps, I will put it into a few sentences for you. I am Kurt ( the Ku in KuMan), a 42 year old single gay man. I am a twin and grew up in a small industrial city in central NY state, where my 5 generations of my family have lived and worked. I am a practicing Christian (Presbyterian) and an active volunteer in numerous charitable, cultural, social and ethnic organizations in my community, as well as owning and operating my own small business. I have two nieces that adore me almost as much as I adore them and I have a dog. High taxes and government intrusion in my business affairs keep me from pursuing some of my life dreams and ambitions, but by and large, I live a quiet and simple life doing mostly for others and a little for myself, as my tastes in life are pretty ascetic.
57. 2010-11-22 09:46  
#56 Kuman,

1) Are you a real Christian? I think you don't fit to be Christian at all. You seem support FoS without responsibility more than being a responsible and lovely person. I don't have religion. You call yourself practicing Christian. Practicing FoS without responsibility? No law can teach us that but simply Love does.

2) We are more worry people like you who just wanna to have FoS without concerning the negative impact of individual right. You seem supporting straight people using FoS to discriminate gay people. Are you gay? Against gay people base on your religion in the public isn't acceptable in Canadian laws. Time for American laws to change.

You don't have to argue with us anymore. Go to Supreme Court of Canada website and take a look at the judgement of the law sues pertaining to FoS vs Gay rights. FoS is not a legal license to hurt others. If you think FoS can have not limit in order to preserve your version of freedom of speech, why don't u try to discriminate black American, we will see how they will react, perhaps they will kill you. American kills America. Is this the value you want for your country or you would like to consider Canadian version of FoS. Wake up.

Come on, I don't need Supreme Court of Canada to describe the limit of FoS for me to live harmony with other vulnerable people. Come sense, It is love. Do you have? Kuman.
58. 2011-02-13 09:06  
#57 Kazuki: Your mention of FoS is noteworthy..all-too-often, we come across morons who take those words so literally, they actually apply them indisriminately and more often than not, trying to absolve responsibilities from their own words, however psychologically damaging and hurtful it can be to their victims. That's the very reason people like Fred Phelps can exist and actually thrive in the US-all they have to do is to claim they are entitled to FoS. LOL
Same thing with feminism and human rights. Imho it's a VERY bad idea to give the hand of FoS to FoR (Freedom of Religion) in marriage
-see how grotesque their child looks!

And I have something for that Kumon guy living in the US:
Pls note that FREEDOM is not something handed down to you on a platter. Previous generations of brave men and women before you, not to mention the founding fathers of America, have fought hard to preserve the US Constitution which covers FoS. Should you choose to squander it away by abusing the system, you are not only displaying a lack of respect for them, bt also yourself by not being a true American.



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