A 17-year-old gay high school student in Arkansas said he was bullied by classmates and harassed by a teacher after returning to school following a dispute over his yearbook profile, according to an interview published by Slate on Thursday.
“[By] fifth period I was ready for the day to be over. All these people were negative, quiet—just weird,” Sheridan High School junior Taylor Ellis told Slate. “I was ready to be home, just trying to get away from everything.”
Ellis (pictured above, third from the left) also said that he discovered an Instagram page titled “Sheridan School = No Gays” during his fifth-period class. The page remains active as of Thursday evening, and a screenshot can be seen here:
“I was looking at all the people who liked it and who followed it — people I don’t need to talk to,” Ellis was quoted as saying. “Three of them were in that class, sitting right across from the room from me. One of them was like, ‘I have the same lotion you have.’ My friend wanted me to flip her off. But I’m not that kind of person.”
Ellis also said one classmate accused him of giving the school a bad name, but that he was admonished by a teacher after asking other students why they were following the “No Gays” page.
“My teacher said, ‘You don’t need to be talking about that in class. You need to go sit down. You have assignments to do,’” Ellis told Slate. “This teacher has never gotten onto me, never had a problem with me.”
Earlier this month, school administrators tried to stop Ellis from discussing his sexuality as part of a group of seven “special commendation” profiles in the school yearbook, an apparent violation of the state Student Publications Act of 1995. The editor of the yearbook also stated that Ellis had already announced he was gay to his classmates over social media, mitigating any potential safety risks.
However, Sheridan School District Superintendent Brenda Haynes defended the decision to the Arkansas News, saying that none of the seven profiles would be published.
“We must make decisions that lead in the proper direction for all of our students and for our community,” Haynes was quoted as saying. “We must not make decisions based on demands by any special interest group.”
The Arkansas Times reported that the Human Rights Campaign announced on Tuesday that it had collected more than 30,000 signatures supporting a petition calling for Ellis’ profile to be published in the yearbook. The group’s president, Chad Griffin (second from left) — himself a native Arkansan — also criticized school leaders for their actions.
“This discriminatory exclusion by Sheridan High School administrators has nothing to do with Arkansas values,” Griffin was quoted as saying. “Arkansans are better than this.”
The Raw Story sent Instagram an email seeking comment on the “No Gays” page, which has not been answered as of Thursday evening.
Arturo R. García is the managing editor at Racialicious.com. He is based in San Diego, California and has written for both print and broadcast media, including contributions to GlobalComment.com, The Root and Comment Is Free. Follow him on Twitter at @ABoyNamedArt
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