Arkansas High School Bans Gay Student's Yearbook Profile
Administrators at Sheridan High School in Sheridan, Arkansas have found themselves defending a decision to censor the profile of junior Taylor Ellis that was to appear in the Yellowjacket Yearbook. According to school officials, Taylor's decision to speak about being gay in the profile would have put a target on his back. But according to Taylor's family and friends, he had been openly gay for some time and feels welcomed by his peers.
“Personally I do not think there’s a risk of that because everyone in the school already knows. It’s not a secret [that Taylor’s gay],” said Hannah Bruner, the assistant yearbook editor who wrote Taylor's profile. “He did come out last year and he did it over a social networking site so everyone knows already, and the story, like I said, is talking about how accepting everyone has been toward him."
Taylor's profile reads:
“I use to be scared to say that I’m gay,” Taylor Ellis, junior, said. “It’s not fun keeping secrets; after I told everyone, it felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders.”
Ellis’s “secret” was first shared in the summer of 2012, with his friend Joelle Curry, junior, and his mother, Lynn Tiley.
“I wasn’t surprised at all,” Tiley said. “I don’t care because he’s my son, and I know he’s happier.”
Ellis struggled before telling his family.
Ellis waited until spring break of 2013 to tell the rest of his peers; he did so through the social media site, Instagram.
“I put it in my bio, and hashtagged pictures,” Ellis said. “When people would ask me about it, I just said ‘yes I am,’ and that was that.”
Although the thought of coming out, and the repercussions of doing so, frightened Ellis at first, he found that most of the student body, as well as the teachers, were very accepting of him.
“I wrote about it in Mrs. Williams class; it was when I first came out,” Ellis said. “She told me she was glad I shared that with her. We had a stronger bond after that, I think.”
“He had poured himself into it,” Summer Williams, sophomore English teacher, said. “It was one of the best ones I read. I was just so proud of his openness, and his honesty. It was a risk; sharing that with his classmates, but they were very accepting. It was good for him. I could tell he felt better after writing about it.”
Ellis found that while people do not treat him with disrespect, some do seem to be more distant.
“Some guys are more reserved around me now,” Ellis said. “But not a lot of people have been mean about it, thank God. I’m actually in a good situation. I’m very lucky.”
“It’s not that big of a deal," said Taylor, who, along with his mother, approved of the story. "It’s just showing other people that it’s OK to be who you are."
The school decided to pull all six student profiles this year after deciding Taylor's was too inflammatory to print. We've reached out to Sheridan High School admins for comment and will update the story if we hear back.
(Source: Student Press Law Center)