A Michigan teacher says that she was trying to instill “tolerance to diversity” in her students when she played a song supporting same sex marriage last week, but instead she found herself suspended from South Lyon’s Centennial Middle School without pay.
“I asked him a few questions about the song,” Johnson recalled. “If it was violent, if there was any profanity, and he said no. And I said this sounds like a great song to go ahead and use for the class.”
“Same Love” was written by Seattle-based hip-hop artist Macklemore about his experience growing up with two gay uncles.
“When I was in the third grade I thought that I was gay / ‘Cause I could draw, and my uncle was, and I kept my room straight,” the song explains. “The right wing conservatives think it’s a decision / And you can be cured with some treatment and religion.”
After listening to the lyrics, Johnson decided that her students could benefit from the song.
“This is one of the things in my school that we’re trying to practice and we’re trying to instill in our students is tolerance to diversity,” she said.
But one student who disagreed reported the performing arts teacher and by the end of the day, she had been suspended indefinitely without pay.
“I don’t think that it was really even thought through,” Johnson explained. “I’m very disappointed in the bias, the bigotry that I feel that they’re really hiding behind.”
The school reportedly decided to allow Johnson return to class after three days suspension, two of them without pay. Paperwork given to Johnson indicated that she had been disciplined for exposing students to content with homosexuality, religion, political views and a sexual slur.
In a statement provided to The Detroit News, the school district said that “misinformation about this issue must be addressed.”
“The district has an established practice, included in the staff handbook, that requires the instructor to first preview any taped material to be used in the classroom, including YouTube clips, then submit a completed form about the proposed clip to a building administrator for approval,” the statement said. “The employee neither previewed the YouTube clip, nor submitted the form for approval as required. Instead, a student gave the clip to the employee at the beginning of class and the employee showed the clip to the class. The clip had no relationship whatsoever to the instructional class content planned for that day.”
She was scheduled to return to work on Thursday but said the ACLU and and the LGBT support group Affirmation were considering getting involved.
“I really love my kids and I never want to hurt them, but I also know that there’s a lot of bullying and there’s a lot of gay bashing and racial issues going on in our country and I want the kids to feel comfortable in my class no matter who they are,” Johnson explained.
It’s a lesson that she had hoped “Same Love” could teach to her students.
“We turn our back on the cause / Till the day that my uncles can be united by law,” Macklemore’s song concludes. “When kids are walking ‘round the hallway plagued by pain in their heart / A world so hateful some would rather die than be who they are / And a certificate on paper isn’t gonna solve it all / But it’s a damn good place to start.”
Watch this video from WJBK, broadcast Nov. 29, 2012.