People were shocked and offended by the decision of a school district to ban shirts that students made bearing the innocent words “Gay OK.” Students at a Texas middle school were told to cover up the “Gay OK” message or go home, leading many people to believe the school district was silencing their support of LGBT rights, according to NBC.
The school district has since spoken out about the Gay OK issue, claiming that the students were only forbidden to wear the Gay OK shirts because they were disruptive, not because of homophobia. However, Cody Cunningham, the spokesman for McKinney Independent School District, did admit that it was wrong for teachers and administrators to punish students simply for wearing Gay OK shirts.
According to BuzzFeed, Cunningham addressed the issue, basically reversing the district’s original position entirely.
“We told the campus administration that they should not have asked the students to take off the shirts, or change shirts. We told them that students have every right to wear the shirts.”
But he did defend the decision by claiming that the Gay OK shirts were banned for causing an uproar in the cafeteria, which in itself was an example of the bullying LGBT individuals face every day.
“Based on the feedback from their staff, [the students] were only asked to leave because of the distraction of the student yelling back and forth,” said Cunningham.
Cunningham also claimed that administrators received “absolutely no reports of bullying” until after students started wearing the Gay OK shirts. But that contradicts the accounts of many gay and lesbian students who say they face gay-shaming and bullying every single day without the school ever intervening, which is what prompted the Gay OK idea in the first place.
“Gay-shaming and bullying for being different is a big problem at our school,” said Anna Thompson, one of the students who sported a Gay OK shirt. “There are tons of kids who are different, and our school has a lot of very religious people in it and they like to speak their mind. They like to say that being gay is wrong and bad.”
“They cared more about our simple shirt that said ‘Gay OK’ than the extreme bullying that has happened to the people who have come out recently,” said the creator of the shirts, seventh grader Sammy Heimen.
Student accounts of being told the Gay OK shirts were inappropriate also contradict the claims of the district, because much of the backlash from the shirts came from school officials long before the outbreak in the cafeteria.
“We weren’t causing a disruption until the administration came to our classrooms, even before lunch,” Thompson said. “A teacher said my shirt was not appropriate before school even started. Then during lunch they told other kids to change or go home.”
What do you think? Should the Gay OK shirts be allowed? Should the students be punished for wearing them?
For more on gay rights, read about the same-sex wedding that Ruth Bader Ginsburg officiated.
[Image credit: Dallas News and BuzzFeed]