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Posted on Wed, Nov 17, 2010 : 8:29 p.m.

Openly gay Ann Arbor teen who supported teacher to be on The Ellen DeGeneres Show Monday

By Kyle Feldscher

Pioneer High School student Graeme Taylor, an openly gay teen who made a moving speech in front of the Howell school board last week, will appear on The Ellen DeGeneres Show Monday.

An interview with Taylor, 14, is scheduled to air on Monday’s show, which is shown at 10 a.m. in the Ann Arbor area on WDIV (Channel 4). Justin Timberlake is also scheduled to be on that day’s show.

Taylor made national headlines following his speech in support of Howell teacher Jay McDowell, who was suspended after ejecting a student who said he didn’t accept gays. In his speech to the board, Taylor revealed he attempted suicide at the age of 9 because of fears of being bullied due to his sexuality.

Taylor said he attended the school board meeting to support a teacher who “finally stood up and did something.”

Since his speech, Taylor has been featured on several prominent blogs and was interviewed along with McDowell on MSNBC.

A promo on the Ellen show website says: "Last week, an incredible 14-year-old named Graeme Taylor gave an inspirational speech defending his teacher for stopping gay bullying. Today he's here to tell Ellen what motivated him to do it."

The incident that prompted Taylor to support McDowell occurred on Oct. 20. McDowell told a student in his classroom to remove a Confederate Flag belt buckle. 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 whether he also could leave because he also didn't accept gays.

McDowell was suspended for one day without pay after the incident.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Kyle Feldscher covers K-12 education for He can be reached at



Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 1:14 a.m.

@ Surfgrommet Folks, I know surfgrommet. He is an honest good hearted hardworking teen who has had to fight because he is gay. I also know that he has gone to the aid of other kids regardless of preference who were being bullied. Being gay myself, I know all to well how brutal high schools can be. But until the good people speak out and say, "This is unacceptable", it will continue. Look at racism. Until society stood up for what was right nothing was done. Racism isn't gone. No, not by a long shot but it is MUCH better than it ever has been and it's getting better every day. It has gotten better because good people pressed for the laws to be changed to make the penalties more severe than the gratification received by it's perpetrators. The same goes with smoking. Once common, it is now looked upon as being unacceptable and the numbers of smokers is dwindling. Hate speech is born out of ignorance. And most people don't want to be on the losing side. When society says something is right, those on the fence or just going along to fit in suddenly turn the corner to be on the winning side. Who was it that said, "All that is required for evil to thrive is for a good man to do nothing." Gay or straight, get involved. It's the right thing to do. Voice your opinion that gay is OK and hate towards gays is unacceptable. Thanks and Kudos to both, Graeme and to Surfgrommet. We'll keep fighting the good fight.


Sat, Nov 20, 2010 : 4:52 p.m.

@mike from saline - WOW! You figured it out?? Thats right. It's a global conspiracy that we have cooked up in secret clandestine GLBT meetings in order to take control of the world! MUHAHAHA! Dude, come on. Get real. There is no secret agenda behind this. This is stuff that has BEEN going on. The difference is that now there is public awareness because one kid stood up for something and someone thought enough of what he said to post it somewhere. At that point the media picked it up and ran with it. That's all there is to it. Why did they pick up on this one story versus the other hundreds out there? Who knows. They just did. Bullying (a term I hate because it really DOES sound 'childish' and doesn't seem to carry the impact or the weight that it should) against gays goes on every single day in every school in every city of this country. I mention gay bullying only because its the only topic I'm qualified to talk about. The only difference is that now it has been brought to light possibly better than it has ever been up to this point. I for one am happy about that. We deserve to be allowed to live safe, happy lives just as much as anyone else does.

mike from saline

Sat, Nov 20, 2010 : 10:03 a.m.

First it was the Chris Armstrong, Andrew Shervill controversy, then the Saline School Board contoversy over their lack of a discrimination policy that includes GLBT students and teachers, and now this. Is it all just coincidence? Is it just me, or could this be contrived [and organized]? Lets see if these incidents don't start popping up all over the place.

Matt Cooper

Sat, Nov 20, 2010 : 1:18 a.m.

You're right, Stefanie. Thanks for the warning and I apologize for that particular phrasing. I could have been shall we say...snarky about it.


Sat, Nov 20, 2010 : 12:20 a.m.

There is a sure sign here that something is wrong with homosexuality when you hear of a boy at the age of only 9 wanting to kill himself. Studies have shown with male homosexuality, a large %'s of them were raised by a not so good father figure. With the right,good,not the bad, which a psychologist and therapists are now doing, they can live a normal life. The homosexual have a higher need to be accepted by other people, could be the father figure factor, and why they are pushing their agenda on us. Faith and reason goes hand in hand,those students should of never been kicked out of the classroom, they have every right to bring up their religious beliefs, it is the law.

Matt Cooper

Fri, Nov 19, 2010 : 8:38 p.m.

@Malorie: I find it amazing the liberties you take with the facts, and how far you will take your hypothesizing in order to bolster your case. And this is not to mention how wrong you are in your estimation of...well...everything you've said so far is wrong. 1. "That teenager who was suspended for a day is the one who is extremely intolerant of views she doesn't agree with." The student responded with the statement "I don't accept gays because it is against my religion" to a conversation initiated BY THE TEACHER. The teacher asked a female student to remove her confederate flag belt buckle so as to not offend the gay students, when he was asked by another student why the gay students could wear their rainbow flag but the non-gay student had to remove her confederate flag belt buckle. The teacher than began preaching about intolerance when the student stated he cannot accept gays because of his religious inclinations, whereupon the teacher ordered this student out of the class (thereby practicing the very intolerance he preached against). 2. "It is fully within every teacher's rights to suspend a student for creating a hostile learning environment." This so called "teacher" had no business opening up this can of worms in the first place. The class room is NOT the place for the "teacher" to force his personal moral code on the students and take punitive action against any students that disagree with him. He does NOT have the right to do that. 3. "DEFAMATION" "Student who uses language to berate or publicly impugn the person (status,race, creed, gender, sexual orientation, etc.) or reputation of another. Ten days suspension; possible referral to central office assistant superintendent for possible suspension and/or expulsion". Thank God we don't live in a society which posseses your close-minded approach to anything. "I cannot accept gays because it's against my religion" in no way, shape or form 'berates', 'impugns' or damages anyone's 'reputation'. It is a statement of his personal beliefs which were made in responce to a conversation initiated (again), BY THE TEACHER. For you to try to use this silly argument is to say that the teacher can express his opinion (saying in any way 'you are intolerant and have to leave my classroom', believe it or not is an opinion), but the students are not allwoed to state their opinion. 4. "...just as cussing at someone can get you suspended. Please follow the link to their code of conduct handbook PDF that shows that openly discriminating against a protected group is cause for expulsion. Once again, this was not about religious views." Unless you know far more about the story than anyone else, since nothing has been said accusing this student of cussing, we'll assume you haven't a clue what you're talking about with that point. Secondly, saying you cannot accept anyone, or anything, at any time for any reason is NOT discrimination. It is a statement of personal beliefs, and it is in fact protected by the Constitution of the United States. And just so you knonw, no school policy overrides the Constitution (it is, after, the 'law of the land, but in all your legal expertise I'm sure you knoew this...right?). As I read your silly posts, I realise that I could write on and on and on about how ridiculous and nonsensical your reasoning is, but I won't waste my time or's cyber space. I just hope people that read your nonsense haver a good laugh.


Fri, Nov 19, 2010 : 2:45 p.m.

I love freedom of speech on forums (I smell irony!!!) Regarding the teacher: figures he comes from Howell, seeing as I personally had experiences where my views were shunned as being irrational. Of course, mine weren't as extreme...I was just barred from the opportunity to ever change any of my classes because a certain vice principal-I won't mention the good doctor's name-said he didn't feel like directing me to my good reason was given. Need I mention when I finally met said counselor, they assumed my last name was "Sanchez" (knowing I was a Latino) without actually asking WHAT my name is? Great first impression! Yet I chose not to erupt in a dramatic outburst, not because I'm spineless, but I figured that's on their conscience, someway or another. Regarding the rebel flag-waver: in a sense, I feel bad for this kid. All he was trying to do was defend his one constitutional amendment to speak, or display, what was on his mind. But lo and behold, in a surprising victory, the popular vote (in this case, the teacher sticking up for the homosexual community) gets the upper hand, and leaves the free thinker in the dust for everybody to spit on. I hate the color purple, so I guess that means everybody gets to cast stones at me because I have my own point of views. And you all think our constitutional preserves are peachy-keen just the way they are currently (refer to the recent results of the proposal 10-1 election)? How cute. Oh, and for the record, I'm a moderately liberal atheist who has a few gay and bi-sexual friends...sorry, trolls, but not this time. And finally, regarding this brave 14-year-old young man: Chris Crocker (lol who) had his 15 minutes of fame, and I'm sure this champ will surely appreciate his, as well. As Chuck said before, how hypocritical of Degeneres to praise such a feeble act of intolerance just because it goes against personal views. It's called "respecting opinions". Something Mr. McDowell should try on for size before verbally lashing out on a student, and something Degeneres should condone before opening her billion-dollar trap.


Fri, Nov 19, 2010 : 9 a.m.

HenryK, there are continuums for gender expression, sexual identity, and gender identity. Often times, someone who falls on the homosexual end of the sexual identity spectrum also may fall on a more feminine side of gender expression (if speaking about a male), or they may be on the masculine extreme of the continuum which is why not all gays fit the stereotype of being flamboyant and feminine. While the kid may not be old enough to have sexual desires, they're still old enough to feel that they are 'different'. I went to elementary school through high school with a little boy who from as young as 7 acted and sounded very feminine. He also liked to hang out with girls and play with the "girl" toys like dolls and easy-bake ovens. He had brothers who played football and acted like the "typical boy". Of course in high school he came out, and while I am not sure how much harassment he received I do know from my own observation that he didn't make any "choice" about it; 7 year olds do not even know what "gay" is.


Fri, Nov 19, 2010 : 2:19 a.m.

Mick52 You keep ignoring my repeated explanation that this is NOT a "free zone" where anything goes. All students of Howell Public Schools are bound by the terms of the school's code of conduct handbook which I posted the link to already. This includes restrictions against many "rights" such as the right to wear what you want, act how you want, and SAY what you want. I am familiar with the book 1984, so I find it hyperbolic in this context. You seem to think these restrictions are new. You also seem unfamiliar with the movement right now to get teachers more involved in preventing an atmosphere that encourages school bullying, and with the major issue of intolerance that Howell has been struggling with for decades.


Fri, Nov 19, 2010 : 1:02 a.m.

The ACLU is involved and they sided with the student and states that the teacher was wrong in suspending him from class.


Thu, Nov 18, 2010 : 8 p.m.

Nice perspective from Surf. Don't know why people are so hung up that an Ann Arbor kid spoke at Howell. Graeme spoke up for something that a) he believes in and b) has personally affected him, which I think is gutsy and admirable. Hooray for whomever in his family and community that has supported him and helped him feel OK about speaking out. There are undoubtedly gay kids at Howell but it might be harder to speak out openly in a less tolerant community.


Thu, Nov 18, 2010 : 5:35 p.m.

I've seen Graeme Taylor around school and am always jealous of that stylin' striped cardigan he sports. It's alright for the unnamed student to be wearing a confederate buckle, but not in school. To most people, the confederate flag is a symbol of hate and intolerance and a reminder of some dishonorable aspects of our country's past. I wouldn't like it myself, and I certainly wouldn't feel comfortable having someone wearing that symbol in my learning environment. HENRYK: Being openly gay Having sex. Being openly gay Being "grown up". Being openly gay inability to play baseball.


Thu, Nov 18, 2010 : 4:53 p.m.

Malorie, you are starting to scare me. Have you read 1984? I think we have every right to state we are intolerant of anything without being afraid of what we say or think. You may have no tolerance for conservatives or liberals but we cannot silence you for saying that. Surfgrommet, Like others here, I applaud your bold statement on this issue, kudos for you for speaking up. Please however be careful about what you write. Our Constitution does not give us rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That phrase appears in the Declaration of Independence. The Constitution really indicates how and when the govt can take away your life, liberty and property. Pursuit of happiness is not a concept the govt can provide, one must pursue that personally. If you read Greg's post, I think he describes what happened well. This has nothing to do with Mr. Taylor, it is about the teacher's actions. As you note correctly, schools have zero tolerance to fighting, weapons and drugs. No issue there, all are illegal and can cause harm. Tolerance or intolerance is not illegal. If you propose that a school can apply "zero tolerance" to intolerance, you are starting to impose on how a person thinks or feels. Mind altering. That it bad and Mr. Taylor may be accused of in favor if he keeps supporting the teacher. We have the right to determine ourselves how we feel on any issue and to state such. We do not have the right to make people comply with one opinion or the other, to force compliance with how a particular group thinks or says, except with certain limitations as set by law. I checked the website. They are a First Amendment support organization. Their opinions are theirs. If you want to know what speech limitations are legal you have to go to court decisions, not what a non profit organization promotes. A person can say they do not tolerate something, but it should hinge on how they exhibit that intolerance for whether or not they can be legally restricted. Simply stating what was said here does not rise to the level of enforcement the teacher took. That is what the school decided and I think they are correct. Either way, Surf, my hat is off to you for having the bravery to post your concerns. Good luck to you.


Thu, Nov 18, 2010 : 4:28 p.m.

Hey thanks for all the comments guys! I wasn't expecting that. Honestly I expected to be flamed pretty bad! @HENRYK No one said anything about anyone having sex at 14. We are gay...not perverts or deviants...theres a difference. :)


Thu, Nov 18, 2010 : 3:52 p.m.

I do not know what to think of the whole story with the teacher, but I am afraid of how fast kids grow up today. This kid was gay at age 9? And at 14 he is openly gay At 9 I was a kid playing baseball all day and at 14 was still just a kid. Now these kids are having sex and openly gay and proud. It just seems too fast for me. Just my opinion.


Thu, Nov 18, 2010 : 3:36 p.m.

it's incredibly ironic that everyone is worried about the rights of the students in Howell to feel safe yet in Ann Arbor's own backyard, it's no big deal (i.e. lunch bunch fiasco & principal's "passionate conversation")


Thu, Nov 18, 2010 : 2:24 p.m.

Mick52 - I see the problem; we have different definitions of intolerance. Blatantly admitting you do not accept a group of people for any reason is intolerance. He wasn't even making a statement that he doesn't believe in being gay, he was saying he does not tolerate others who are. I believe the teacher had a responsibility to make it clear that those kinds of statements are not acceptable in school, especially since it is in the handbook that I posted a link to that you cannot express discrimination against those protected groups. If faculty tolerate bigotry then it creates an unsafe learning atmosphere for others, which the school is required BY FEDERAL LAW to provide.


Thu, Nov 18, 2010 : 1:49 p.m.

Looks like,in Ann Arbor, none of us dare offer an opinion when it conflicts with the reigning orthodoxy.


Thu, Nov 18, 2010 : 12:56 p.m.

@Surf ~ Well written! You understand why Graeme is attracting so much attention, and explained it beautifully. Too many people seem to be caught up with the incident itself, but Graeme's speech in front of the school board represented so much more. You are very wise for your age, as is Graeme.


Thu, Nov 18, 2010 : 12:31 p.m.

Freedom of speech is not guaranteed in the school setting. School authorities can limit student speech if they believe it negatively affects the learning environment. It is safe to assume that there are gay kids in any class, and therefore, to allow a kid to speak about their hatred of gays in a class would impede the ability of a gay student to feel comfortable in their learning environment.


Thu, Nov 18, 2010 : 9:51 a.m.

@Steve Bean - Clearly the freedom of speech DOES clash with our freedom to pursue happiness. Hate speech causes great harm, especially to younger people who are influenced so much by the opinions of others. I don't really understand what you are trying to say to Surfgrommet. Others DO control us by their speech and they DO threaten us with their hatred. Many people are influenced by others' words and their own hatred and intolerance magnified by it. It's not a simple matter of "sticks and stones"... hate speech does harm us all.


Thu, Nov 18, 2010 : 9:33 a.m.

@Surfgrommet - I would like to give you a huge hug. You and Graeme are the kind of kids who will finish this long fight some of us older gay people have been fighting all our lives (continued from those before us). Your parents should be very proud of you, you're obviously a very smart and compassionate kid.

Steve Bean

Thu, Nov 18, 2010 : 9:22 a.m.

@Surfgrommet: "Our constitution grants us the freedom of speech but it also grants us the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. What do we do when those two freedoms clash?" Speech can't clash with those other freedoms. It's not happiness, but the pursuit thereof. Others can't control us or truly threaten our lives through speech. This is an opportunity for us to see that more clearly. Hate speech arises from confusion. Let's clear up the confusion, not (unintentionally) perpetuate it or create more. The first step is to ask, Is that true? Question assertions and assumptions, even simple statements that you've never questioned before.


Thu, Nov 18, 2010 : 9:17 a.m.

Roger, I'm not saying teachers should be robots that reflexively spew out pre-determined curriculum. But on the other hand, I think we're heading down a slippery slope if there are no parameters to what they can discuss and how much of class time they can divert. He's a economics teacher. All indications are that he unilaterally decided to take major portions of all his classes that day and discuss the issue of gay youth taking their own lives. If he can do that, what's to prevent another teacher from taking class time to lecture students on the evils of abortion or whether or not Obama was born in the United States? Add to that the fact that he then shouted down students with differing opinions and I think it's clear McDowell didn't act very professionally (or maturely) that day. The fact that the gay rights community has decided to make him their poster child is doubly disappointing, because it ignores the details of what actually happened to advance a predetermined narrative.


Thu, Nov 18, 2010 : 9:13 a.m.

I find myself agreeing with both Greg and Roger Roth.


Thu, Nov 18, 2010 : 8:24 a.m.

This story isn't about gay rights or whether the teacher was right or wrong. If you watch the video you find out that Greame's dad teaches at Hartland which is right next to Howell, so there is a connection. Even if there wasn't why can't a kid from another school support the teacher? And to Surf, I think you're awesome for commenting here and with such poise. Proof that our children are being raised right because you're comment was by the far the most mature I've read in a long time. I know greymom said its still hard for her, which i'm sure it is, but I just wanted you to know that its not always going to be that hard. Cliche as some of those videos are, it DOES get better. I promise. And to all the people commenting on here attacking surf for who he/she is, remember this is a 15 year old that we should be supporting. Anyways, all these comments make me nervous so I just wanted to say to surf and to any other young person reading these post, please trust me when I tell you it will get better. There are lots and lots and lots of "grownups" (i hate calling myself that) that love and support you, we just aren't as loud.

Roger Roth

Thu, Nov 18, 2010 : 8:17 a.m.

Hold on Greg! Seems to me that the world is no better off for any educator's rigid allegiance to the curriculum. Traditional curricula are driven by state economics, period, and have little to do with helping kids learn to filter through social myths and convention. No matter how much or how well kids are taught to grease the wheels of an economy, it's a society's inability to be moral, ethical and rational that will eventually bring it crashing down--as we are seeing.


Thu, Nov 18, 2010 : 7:45 a.m.

This story is simply out of control and is bearing no relation to the facts. This student attends Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor and attended the Howell school board meeting to support McDowell, but then discussed the harassment he suffered in the Ann Arbor schools. He's never been a student of McDowell and never attended Howell schools. Yet the media in their usual rush to hype, have made it seem as if he was speaking about the Howell district, when he has no experience there at all. Don't get me wrong, gay bullying is a serious problem and can't be tolerated, BUT THAT'S NOT WHAT HAPPENED! McDowell, who teaches Economics, decided to abandon his curriculum for the entire day to discuss the issue of gay suicides. But when a student expressed a differing opinion, he became intolerant, shut down the student, humiliated him in front of his peers and threw him out of class. This student never uttered a racial epithet as has been alleged, nor said he hated gay people. When directly asked by McDowell is he accepted gay people, he said that homosexuality is against his Catholic beliefs. Is anyone saying that the Catholic Church isn't against homosexuality? Of course not. How can you then condemn a 16 year old who is merely repeating what he has been taught to believe? Do I agree with church teaching? Hell no! The church is backward and responsible for eons of suffering, but I'm not going to put that on the back of a teenager. Believe me, whether you're liberal or conservative, you do not want teachers to feel free to abandon their assigned curriculum to discuss at will whatever social and/or political issues they desire.

Roger Roth

Thu, Nov 18, 2010 : 7:33 a.m.

Chuck, you believe homosexual acts are sinful because you were taught to believe that and not necessarily because they are. I challenge you to give us all here a reason for your belief beyond saying some guy out of the Dark Ages said his deity declared it--which is no rationale. There's nothing sacred about procreation and, in fact, it's getting us into big trouble and that makes us no better than dogs and cats. In fact, dogs and cats would do just fine if people, evolved with a capacity for arrogance and a proclivity for irrational behavior, could understand how their meddling is screwing up the planet. Surf, you're a beautiful person. I understand. GLBT's in America are essentially the victims of homemade terrorism. Most people get that. Most people don't obsess over another's sex life. I apologize to you for the misery self-righteous, arrogant straights have perpetrated on your life. The church, which is perpetuating this myth, is gradually coming around to declaring homosexuality a non-sin, because they have alienated enough of their financial supporters to jeopardize their (the church's) future. Now, they tout inclusiveness, which Jesus, we're told, taught back in the Dark Ages. It is going to get better for you, Surf, not because the self-righteous will "accept" what they declare as your wrongdoing, but because they will become enlightened, and that, if for no other reason, because they'll need your money. Please know that the overwhelming majority of your fellow humans love and support--and don't judge--you.


Thu, Nov 18, 2010 : 7:29 a.m.

Surf you are right on the money- people won't and don't get those of us that are gay but I am older and gay and I still get treated unfairly. As a community we all need to put ourselves in each others shoes and walk one day with the remarks, fear, and unknowing of what will happen next. I have worked in the A2 Schools for twenty years and was outed by a Principle and treated unfairly. Yes, I was told I had grounds to sue but who does it hurt the kids! I also left a Religion because I knew I would be removed because it was not excepted. I find it amazing that a 15 year old is the one that made it very clear the problem with this world with a true, simple comment. Good for you Surf


Thu, Nov 18, 2010 : 6:52 a.m.

@surf, thank you for your thoughtful post. I also hope you (and any kid, gay or straight) continue to have hope for the future---nothing at that age is worth ending a life. @djm, I too am confused by this story. Did the Ann Arbor kid ever know or have this teacher? Or did he just hear about the story and decide to go to a Howell school board meeting? (I don't think I heard about the story until a light was shined on the Ann Arbor student who spoke). Also, I'm confused about why the Howell student who was kicked out class was mentioning the rainbow flag---was it metaphorically or on the t-shirt? Anyway, I'm glad this Ann Arbor kid can be hope/inspiration for others in his shoes and I hope the teacher has learned that while it's fine to be passionate about a cause, he needs to be careful while in his role as a public school teacher (his words on TV about being too passionate). Interesting that a passionate conversation in Howell gets someone a suspension though (and their tenure looked at).


Thu, Nov 18, 2010 : 5:13 a.m.

I thought the kid in this video was an Ann Arbor student. Perhaps when you report a story you can clarify when someone makes a incorrect statement...such as the EDeG show promo. The suspended teacher is not his teacher, correct? And I am getting bored with the he said/she said. The teacher suspension was upheld by the School Board based on the facts. Shall we now move on to raising our children to be better people, which is the whole root of the problem...The teacher for his arrogance and intolerance and the children for their arrogance and intolerance. Parents are the ones that should be teaching good moral core values, parents should be resonsible to teach their children to not be bullies, bigots, and hate-mongers..not a school! Although I will say Ann Arbor can be a hot-bed of intolerance of those that do not have the "Ann Arbor" values.


Thu, Nov 18, 2010 : 4:36 a.m.

Surf, Thank you for expressing your thoughts. You certainly are wise beyond your years. Either we ALL deserve to be treated with dignity and respect or NONE of us do. Which is it? From someone who is 50 years older than you....thanks.


Thu, Nov 18, 2010 : 2:43 a.m.

I'm 15 and I'm gay. I'm going to try to word this as best I can. I don't have the experience some of you do with trying to get my point across so please keep that in mind. I think people are going off-track with this whole conversation. This article, and all the articles I have seen aren't about whether the teacher was right or wrong. That is obviously a very gray area. None of us were there and none of us know what really was said, and more importantly HOW it was said and what the tone was behind it. This article is about Graeme. A gay kid from my generation who stood up for something he believed in - an adult, specifically a teacher, who stood up for us. Schools have 'zero tolerance' rules about drugs and fighting so is it so wrong to extend that to intolerance? Our constitution grants us the freedom of speech but it also grants us the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. What do we do when those two freedoms clash? There are a lot of things I could say about 'freedom of speech'. People know that is one of our rights but far too many people believe it is an absolute right. It's not. Do some research like I have done. Look up the Freedom Forum Organization, the "harm principle", or the "offense principle". Unless I see a response wanting more information I will leave it at that. Like I said, this is about Graeme. Graeme stood up for someone he saw standing up for him. Not him personally of course, but all of us. There are a lot of us gay kids out there. It's not a choice. I wish it was. Life would be much easier if we could fit nicely into your 'straight' society. However, I could no more choose to be 'straight' than you could choose to be gay. I could type all day and all night and never be able to make many of you understand what it feels like inside to be a gay teen. I won't even bother. Either you have an idea what it must be like or you don't. I can say this though - it's something that eats you up inside. Not because its 'evil' or anything. I don't believe it is. It's because we can see the world. We aren't stupid. We see the hatred for us. Imagine what its like to be a kid and know that the world hates you and they don't even KNOW you! You are just hated for what you are. I have seen people say things about Graeme. About his attempted suicide at age 9. I completely understand him. He tried once and I can only assume that it was the event that brought out his sexuality and that his parents accepted him at that point for who he is. Personally I have attempted it a few times. Why? Its hard to explain. And honestly, it doesn't matter. Graeme gives me hope. I believe he gives all of us gay kids hope. Who advocates for us? Who makes us feel like maybe some day things WILL get better? Who gives us the courage to try to make it just one more day and see if things have changed? Someone like Graeme, that's who. One single 14 year old kid who had the courage to stand up and defend an adult who was just (right or wrong) trying to protect the rights of the other students in his classroom - the rights of life, liberty, AND the pursuit of happiness. Thank you very much for listening. I hope I made sense. Surf


Thu, Nov 18, 2010 : 1:45 a.m.

Malorie your multiple post include two interesting statements. In your first post, you wrote: "That teenager who was suspended for a day is the one who is extremely intolerant of views she doesn't agree with." I thought that odd because when I was reading a story on another news service it directed readers to the WDIV website to a video of the interview of the teacher, giving his side of the story. In the interview, the teacher himself stated what the student said and I was more convinced the school was correct, he should have been suspended, since the student - according to the teacher - said nothing to indicate she has extreme intolerance. Nor were here statements aggressive and inappropriate as the teacher was claiming. Astonishing, the teacher described the pupil as a hard working good student. Your later post just before Visha and Dave Briegel noted pretty much what she said. Nothing about her statement is inappropriate or indicates extreme intolerance. Furthermore, that day was designated as a day to talk about bullying, so it is not unusual that a student might profess their views. I would have no problem with a teacher taking some action with a student who said something inappropriate, aggressive or threatening but good grief it has to be a lot more inappropriate than this. How are you going to get students to participate in discussions when you make it obvious you have to be careful about discussing your opinions? This behavior, by the teacher is very dangerous.


Wed, Nov 17, 2010 : 11:57 p.m.

Sorry for hogging so much but I thought I'd note that I realized I combined two students; the girl with the flag buckle complied with the teacher's request and didn't say anything.


Wed, Nov 17, 2010 : 11:48 p.m.

Many parents feel that it is their duty to brainwash their children before they mature enough to form their own (and possibly more tolerant) opinions.


Wed, Nov 17, 2010 : 11:36 p.m.

Interesting about the new information ViSHa. Good point about him being welcome at more tolerant schools; I am sure many schools would be thrilled to have a teacher like him. It's sad really; growing up in Pinckney and attending high school in Howell I am very familiar with the reputation of the town's intolerance. I assumed that this generation had changed that reality, but I see the parents' views are alive and well in their children.

David Briegel

Wed, Nov 17, 2010 : 11:33 p.m.

Chuck, I think what you are saying is the same as if you told a Black person that it was ok to be black except for the color of their skin! Love the Christian, hate their sin?


Wed, Nov 17, 2010 : 11:28 p.m.

according to the 11pm news, it may be what the teacher "allegedly" said in the hallway to the student that is the cause for the suspension. i imagine there will be more to come once the inevitable lawsuits are filed. this teacher should know he can always find a job at a certain elementary school in ann arbor if he doesn't want to worry about being disciplined for unprofessional behavior.


Wed, Nov 17, 2010 : 11:26 p.m.

The girl didn't simply say that the Christian religion says that being gay is sinful, she said she did not personally accept people who were gay. "I don't accept gay people" and THEN "it's against my religion" are the words she is quoted as saying. She is probably making up her reason as an afterthought because if she was devout she'd know her religion is fine with loving gays and praying for them. That's why there are so many Christian retreats and workshops that attempt to "make gays be straight". They see them as misguided sinners who can be redeemed to Christ, not the devil incarnate.


Wed, Nov 17, 2010 : 11:17 p.m.

The teacher said absolutely nothing about her religious views...what is it that you think was said? He kept telling her it was not appropriate to discuss it in class. He did not say she was wrong or argue the subject with her. He could have said the same thing to a student who was trying to preach to the class about gay rights. Are you standing up for people's right to say "I don't accept blacks" or "I don't accept Jews" in classrooms? Yes or no? I reiterate: That girl signed an agreement not to share her negative views against any protected group of citizens, including gays, regardless of if she thinks her religion hates one of the groups.


Wed, Nov 17, 2010 : 11:10 p.m.

If you are gay come and live in our rasist community....anyone of color don't even think about it.


Wed, Nov 17, 2010 : 11:09 p.m.

Chuck, according to Howell Public Schools it is, just as cussing at someone can get you suspended. Please follow the link to their code of conduct handbook PDF that shows that openly discriminating against a protected group is cause for expulsion. Once again, this was not about religious views. Some Christians believe that the Bible says BEING gay is a sin, but it says nothing about it being a sin to mind your own business when it comes to others' romances.


Wed, Nov 17, 2010 : 11:03 p.m.

According to the Howell definition of defamation, the teacher defamed the student for berating their creed about homosexuality in front of the class. For those of you who don't realize it, I'm playing devil's advocate. What is the school to do when students and teachers have contradictory creeds, and they feel threatened by each others creeds?


Wed, Nov 17, 2010 : 10:56 p.m.

Roger: If your religion taught you to hate gays, people with brown eyes, or with IQ's under 125, then you could tell it where to go, but the Constitution wouldn't. You would be free to hold those views, but you wouldn't be allowed to act on them by harassing these groups without sanctions. Malorie: I agree that if those religious views are acted upon, then they could create a hostile learning environment. But is the vocalization of the views themselves hostile? Christianity teaches to love homosexuals, but that homosexual acts are sinful. If saying homosexuality is sinful is barred from the classroom, then the classroom has become a hostile environment to Christians. If saying homosexuality is not sinful is barred from the classroom, then the classroom has become hostile to homosexuals. Both views should be allowed to be expressed in the classroom, even though the two sides disagree.


Wed, Nov 17, 2010 : 10:51 p.m.

I apologize for some typos, not sure how coils made it in there. It should also be unsafe not unsaved.


Wed, Nov 17, 2010 : 10:47 p.m.

Why does the headline of this story read "Openly Gay Ann Arbor Teen..." instead of "Ann Arbor Teen"? Who cares that he is gay? He is just a kid who stood up for what he believes in. Congratulations to him for doing it regardless of his sexual orientation or any other characteristic about him. Please stop referring to him as openly gay, unless you also want to inform us of his race, religion, etc.


Wed, Nov 17, 2010 : 10:46 p.m.

Lola, I was struggling to think of the exact words to respond to this difficult issue, and you said it better than I did.


Wed, Nov 17, 2010 : 10:46 p.m.

Being a student at Pioneer, this type of question/situation comes up a lot. Should teachers ignore students comments because we have the freedom of speech, or should the student be removed because every other student is promised a safe learning environment? Although to many it may seem right that a student not be removed but in actuality, other people in the class coils feel unsaved because of remarks made. A tacher is somewhat a referee of the classroom. They should make sure that students are not only playing by the rules but also by protecting the players/students. If McDowell didn't ask this student to leave, many others may have felt unsafe. To some it may seem to be just a judgement call but I believe he made the right decision.

David Briegel

Wed, Nov 17, 2010 : 10:39 p.m.

Roger Roth, Malorie, Excellent posts! I would only add my opinion that the "Stars and Bars" aren't that much better than the swastika. They both lost. They both deserved to lose because they were both wrong and unjust. Why we allowed the continued tribute to our Southern American failure is beyond me. Chuck, they have the right to their free speech and we have the right to tell them how wrong they are. Just like you are! Davidian, you ask "where would he be as a gay man"? Right here in bigotted America as a second class citizen without the rights granted to other fellow citizens. In the name of Jesus! What is unAmerican is that a Christian majority is allowed to trample on the "God given rights" of their fellow citizens!!


Wed, Nov 17, 2010 : 10:20 p.m.

Straight from Howell's Student Code of Conduct book: DEFAMATION Student who uses language to berate or publicly impugn the person (status, race, creed, gender, sexual orientation, etc.) or reputation of another. Ten days suspension; possible referral to central office assistant superintendent for possible suspension and/or expulsion You can find the full document of the handbook which makes it clear she could have even been expelled here:


Wed, Nov 17, 2010 : 10:05 p.m.

The Confederate flag is widely accepted as being a symbol of hate whereas the Gay Pride flag is not. Anyone, including the student who was suspended, who doesn't understand that fundamental difference is beyond ignorant. Would any of you question the difference between a crucifix and a Nazi swastika? I am not a Christian but do not find a crucifix to be offensive as I know that it is a representation of Jesus and his sacrifice for Christians, a symbol of hope and love. The Nazi swastika is a universal symbol of destruction and hate. Now do you understand the difference?


Wed, Nov 17, 2010 : 10:05 p.m.

Once again, I must emphasize, Howell has such a huge reputation of being a KKK hot spot swarming with racism that several black and mixed-race people I know have refused to go there with me because they feared they would be met with hostility or even violence. This is why a display of the confederate flag takes on the worst meaning to residents in Howell. Do you really think a high school student that would say something like "I don't accept gays" really considers any other meaning of that flag? Notice: this isn't a southern state!!! You can't possibly argue that she was simply showing pride in her southern roots when she was raised in Michigan!

Roger Roth

Wed, Nov 17, 2010 : 9:57 p.m.

In my view there are several wrongs here. But the biggest one is that American public schools ought to be teaching their students how to think rationally. Because fables tell us that some bearded guy in a long robe out of the 1st century declared that he was told through divine revelation that gays are bad doesn't mean that we have to accept that. In fact, our constitution tells us we can't accept that. We were supposed to have come into enlightened thinking after the dark ages. What is enlightened about believing a gay is less of a person than a non-gay? If my religion taught me to hate gays, people with brown eyes, or with IQ's under 125, I'd tell it where go. Interesting, isn't it, that though religions teach love, many of their practitioners are hateful? Think about that, for starters. Then, think about what it is about your thinking and you, as a person, that makes you obsess over a gay person's sexual preference? It's none of your business, whatsoever, nor does what that other person do, sexually, have any bearing on your life whatsoever. If you think it does, then you need the help, not the gay. I'm an old, straight male and have many gay acquaintances and friends. They're generally loving, caring, productive, smart people. I've never heard one of them criticize a straight for being straight and that, in my book, makes them way better people than self-righteous straights who seize the moral authority to deem gays to be inferior. We really need to move on from this tired subject. Bigots need to fix their thinking so society can advance a little. In a world sorely in need of more and more love, why would not everyone support every other one who loves? Doesn't matter who or what, for Zeus' sake, just love!


Wed, Nov 17, 2010 : 9:57 p.m.

Anyone know when "Bigamist Pride" day at Pioneer is this year? I'm gonna let my kid wear two shirts -


Wed, Nov 17, 2010 : 9:56 p.m.

Chuck...what? Flip that around. That teenager who was suspended for a day is the one who is extremely intolerant of views she doesn't agree with. Most schools have limitations on what students may wear in school, and in Howell they have been fighting racism for decades since the small town next to it was home to a prominent KKK figure. It is fully within every teacher's rights to suspend a student for creating a hostile learning environment. If that student had said she didn't accept black people, would you expect her to get away with that? "Rights" are restricted every day in high schools in an effort to maintain a safe learning environment; what about the "right" to wear the hood of your sweatshirt up? Wasn't allowed to in my high school. This girl signed an agreement with Howell High School to agree to their terms which I am sure included an anti-discrimination clause. She probably got off easy.


Wed, Nov 17, 2010 : 9:37 p.m.

Would the situation be different if it were other groups that were targeted by the students' comments? What if he had said he didn't accept blacks, the disabled, women? The list goes on.


Wed, Nov 17, 2010 : 9:28 p.m.

I strongly support gay rights because to me, it's an issue of human freedom and expression. For that exact same reason, I strongly oppose the teacher and his supporters. This has nothing to do with being gay and everything to do about being selectively tolerant. The Confederate flag may be painful for most of us, but we must acknowledge that other Americans think otherwise, and they are guaranteed this freedom. What would happen if the teacher forced a young Muslim woman to take off her hijab? Last I checked, followers of Islam (and many other religions) are usually intolerant to gay people. Imagine the fallout from that. Instead, this guy is being celebrated and this boy is on TV. There is something critically wrong and fundamentally un-American about this. This teacher should do the right thing and admit to everyone, especially this impressionable teenager, that he in fact was the intolerant one and in the wrong. Besides: where would he be, as a gay man, without the freedom of speech and expression?


Wed, Nov 17, 2010 : 9:21 p.m.

Chuck is spot on. Like it or not, unpopular speech and views need to be protected.


Wed, Nov 17, 2010 : 8:54 p.m.

This is so sickening. Someone needs to call the ACLU and get them involved, because the civil rights of the students in the class are being trampled by this teacher, who is extremely intolerant of views that he doesn't agree with. No matter how unpopular the Confederate flag belt buckle or the religious views of the students are, they are allowed to hold those views, and they shouldn't be punished for them. Shame on the intolerant teacher, and shame on Ellen Degeneres for honoring someone who defended his intolerance. She is a hypocrite for being selectively tolerant.