The limits of free speech vs. the acceptance of gay students is a battle on display in Michigan this week.
The Associated Press reports that a teacher threw a boy out of his class after he said he doesn’t accept gays. The school suspended the teacher.
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.
At a school board meeting in Howell, Michigan last night, 14-year-old Graeme Taylor came to the teacher’s defense.
For the record, there doesn’t appear to be any evidence to support the student’s claim that “6 million gay people kill themselves every year.” In the latest year for which statistics are readily available, 34,598 people in the United States killed themselves. They all weren’t gay.
Another student said the First Amendment was being improperly used to harbor “hate speech.”
The school board said it will create an anti-bullying policy.