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Posted on Fri, Nov 30, 2012 : 2:49 p.m.

Suspended teacher who played gay-pride song has pay restored; rapper weighs in on incident

By Bob Needham


Rapper Macklemore, right, and producer Ryan Lewis

AP file photo

The artist behind a rap song about being gay that led to a teacher's suspension has spoken out about the incident.

Susan Johnson, a teacher at South Lyon's Centennial Middle School, was suspended for three days after playing the song "Same Love," by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, in class without authorization. The played the song at the request of a student, but another student in the class objected, Fox 2 in Detroit reported earlier this week. The song addresses the challenges of growing up gay and expresses support for same-sex marriage.

Seattle-based rapper Macklemore (a.k.a. Ben Haggerty) has posted a statement on the duo's website addressing the South Lyon incident.

And today, The Detroit News reports that Johnson is back at work and her pay has been restored.

The News quotes district Superintendent William Pearson as saying, ""I am willing to not uphold the suspension, but the violation of the district practice regarding web-based clips and our expectations for instructions previewing materials under this will remain in writing."

Macklemore's statement reads in part, "I believe that Ms. Johnson getting suspended is completely out of line and unjust. However, I think it’s important for moments like these to be exposed and for us to pay attention and respond ...

"I wrote the song “Same Love,” not with the expectation that it would cure homophobia and lead to marriage equality across the US (although that’d be awesome). It was written with the hope that it would facilitate dialogue and through those conversations understanding and empathy would emerge. This incident demonstrates how too often we are quick to silence conversations that must be had."

Read Macklemore's full statement here.

Here's a video of the song: (Only the audio was played in class.)

Bob Needham is director of entertainment content for Reach him at or 734-623-2541, and follow him on Twitter @bobneedham.



Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 4:33 p.m.

What find most disappointing is how the school board members responded. It was clear from their statements, they still view this teacher to be a fault and blame for the bad media they have gotten. If the board members really listened to the parents and those they are SUPPOSE to be representing, they would hear that their policy they have in place is either not clear or to rigid. A youtube video is very different from a song……… This was a teachable moment (as us educators use) and the school board obviously does not understand the basic elements of education. I can only hope that this teacher gets an opportunity to transfer to another school district that operates outside of the stone ages.


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 2:27 p.m.

According to an interview with Ms.Johnson (on Mojo in the Morning), the report by Ann that Ms.Johnson's pay from the unpaid suspension has been reinstated is not correct. As of December 4th, the South Lyon school district has NOT reinstated her pay from those two suspension days. Also, the video that was shown to the class was lyrics-only on the screen, not the original video. Additionally, it has supposedly been status-quo that most media clips have not been reviewed by the Building Administrator, so it appears the school admin is using "rule" (as the basis for their suspension) in a very discretionary way. Way to keep bigotry alive and well, South Lyon. And the bullying targeting sexual orientation? Clearly you're doing what you can. #sarcasm


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 2:26 p.m.

According to an interview with Ms.Johnson (on Mojo in the Morning), the report by Ann that Ms.Johnson's pay from the unpaid suspension has been reinstated is not correct. As of December 4th, the South Lyon school district has NOT reinstated her pay from those two suspension days. Also, the video that was shown to the class was lyrics-only on the screen, not the original video. Additionally, it has supposedly been status-quo that most media clips have not been reviewed by the Building Administrator, so it appears the school admin is using "rule" (as the basis for their suspension) in a very discretionary way. Way to keep bigotry alive and well, South Lyon. And the bullying targeting sexual orientation? Clearly you're doing what you can. #sarcasm


Sun, Dec 2, 2012 : 4:51 p.m.

Same love; different day!


Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 6:48 p.m.

In the context of what can or cannot be said or sung in a school, I am curious what readers think of this story:


Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 10:18 p.m.

Actually, the first American military advisors arrived in 1950. And the French were there...... My starting point for the war is August 2, 1964.

Craig Lounsbury

Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 8:11 p.m.

a2, It would be accurate to say American combat involvement in the war got started under "left wing, democrat liberals " but its not accurate to say " left wing, democrat liberals' started the war. The war started in 1955 without our help at all.


Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 6:58 p.m.

The difference is macklemoore uses god and religion in a hateful way...which is acceptable to left wing, democratic liberals. The poem in the story you cite is about how two young men (the 6 year-old's grandfathers) got through a war that those very same left wing, democrat liberals started.

Ann Wisniewski

Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 6:26 p.m.

Most of us will agree, at least, that the suspension was voided and pay restored very quickly after the complaint surfaced. I have no direct knowledge of what steps the teacher in question took immediately after receiving her suspension, but I would assume that she immediately contacted her union representative who may have directly or indirectly threatened legal action if the administration did not follow the stated work rules that had been established. The district did not want to go down that path, and, thus, quickly revoked their actions in this case.

Billy Bob Schwartz

Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 11:01 p.m.

This is one reason why unions need to exist. When management shoots from the hip in disciplining a teacher for dealing with a controversial issue, who is to get the administrators to THINK? Thank goodness for the unions of America that help prevent this kind of injustice. How is a teacher to teach and challenge kids if the threat is always hanging there that if a student complains, you can be seriously punished without a hearing or any other source of help? This isn't making widgets here. This is educating kids, which means challenging their minds. Challenge at your peril.


Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 5:54 p.m.

WHAT IS LOVE ??? The song may have generated some controversy but there is no escape from not defining the term 'love'. Both adults, and children have to know about the complexity of love. It is a powerful emotion and it can often generate the exact opposite emotion called 'hate'. If there is love, there is a good chance that it can be easily replaced by hate and could have serious consequences to the parties involved. There are many different kinds of love; different in object, different in tendency, and different in expression. All said and done, the complexity of this emotional instinct demands that man must use reason to regulate it, to direct it, and to restrain it. The mechanism that I recommend is that of using God's Love as a guiding principle.

Michigan Man

Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 4:18 p.m.

Back off of the fine people in South Lyon. Do not need Ann Arbor types imposing their values on our good neighbors over in South Lyon. Time for Ann Arbor types to stand down!


Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 4:39 p.m.

You mean you don't want educated people providing their views? Just so you know, many find people of South Lyon work in Ann Arbor.........

Paul Taylor

Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 9:27 p.m.

As a member of the great South Lyon diaspora, I say do not back down. A good many Ann Arborites are transplanted South Lyonites, and a good many Ann Arborites work in South Lyon--specifically in the schools.

Ivor Ivorsen

Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 5:54 p.m.

How about the values of a majority of Americans? ABC News/Washington Post Poll. Nov. 7-11, 2012. N=1,023 adults nationwide. Margin of error ± 3.5 "Do you support or oppose gay marriage?" Support 51 % Oppose 47 % Unsure 3%

Fat Bill

Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 3:14 a.m.

Shewwt, over in Shop we all work on our jacked-up pickup trucks with gun racks in the back window. Mufflers optional... I have to agree with the other posters, South Lyon managed to get on the map for all the wrong reasons.


Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 1:15 a.m.

Let's test drive a little hypocrisy, yes! Down the hall from SameLove, HighlyValuedTeacher was playing a recording of Allahumma:O Allah, which was intended to ignite an open dialogue about the beautiful names of God most revered in the Quran. Further down the hall, BelovedTeacher was playing a recording of the chanted Eucharistic prayer from a Catholic nuptual Mass. This was intended to generate a lively conversation about how marriage of man and woman mirrored the covenant relationship of Christ with his Church. Everyone was happy because acceptance of the Other was deepened and more committed. Everyone was happy because no one was telling anyone what/ how to believe. Everyone was happy. Betcha not.


Sun, Dec 2, 2012 : 2:45 a.m.

The only significant difference between theological indoctrination and moral/ social indoctrination is that pro-gay social indoctrination is widely accepted.

Paul Taylor

Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 9:24 p.m.

There is a vast diffence between playing a song in order to promote school and district goals regarding diversity and tolerance and playing songs to promote a theology.

Urban Sombrero

Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 1:13 a.m.

I cannot believe that, in this day and age, homosexuality is STILL considered to be controversial to some groups. Well, looking at the way the wind is blowing.....I'm happy to say it shouldn't be for that much longer. Fifty years ago, mixed-race marriages were scandalous. Hopefully (much sooner than fifty years from now), homosexual marriages will be accepted as mainstream. Bigotry is a character flaw. It boggles my mind how many people wear their bigotry like a badge of honor, though. It's disgusting. People against homosexuality LOVE to quote the Bible. Yeah, well? How about, "Judge not, LEST YE BE JUDGED", people? Mind your own business. It's not hurting you, At all.

Middle America

Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 12:20 p.m.

Hey now, don't confuse "The Black Stallion3" by interpreting the Bible in a non-hateful way.

The Black Stallion3

Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 11:46 a.m.

You are funny !!!

Urban Sombrero

Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 1:15 a.m.

And, because I forgot to include this: Don't go trying that whole, "Sanctity of marriage" nonsense. We have a divorce rate hovering near 50% in this country. For HETEROSEXUAL marriages. How is that "sanctified"? Give me a break!


Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 1:05 a.m.

Other SLCS freedom issues:


Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 1:03 a.m.

2012 REGIONAL SUPERINTENDENTS OF THE YEAR Also one of the highest paid superintendents in Michigan. Region 9 William A. Pearson, South Lyon Community Schools William A. Pearson is being recognized for setting a culture of excellence for the South Lyon Community Schools. Nominators say he has established a core set of values within the district that promotes responsibility, respect, accountability, vision, communication, integrity, and excellence. He has put together an administrative team that embraces the core values that define the "South Lyon Way." They in turn, have developed a teaching and support team that consistently applies those core values every day in every way throughout the district. When Dr. Pearson began in South Lyon as Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum in 1991, the district was in a state of struggle and transition. He was named Superintendent in 1995 and continued to transform South Lyon Community Schools into one of the most effective districts in Michigan.

Billy Bob Schwartz

Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 10:52 p.m.

nominated by whom?


Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 12:20 p.m.

I'm a parent in the community, and in my dealings with him, I've found him to have several traits of a bully who ranks his ego over child safety in order of importance. It's time for him to go.

music to my ear

Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 1:02 a.m.

darn if you do, darn if you dont,

Paul Taylor

Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 12:44 a.m.

Again, the protocol/policy applies to video, not audio. Parson saying it applies to web-bassed clips does not automatically expand its scope. All reports are that the song was played, not a video. I would assume the backdown is because someone pointed this discrepancy out to the administration, with an attorney standing behind them as they delivered this message.

Paul Taylor

Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 3:25 p.m.

Well, first, because there is a difference, and, second, because the policy specifies video. It does not specify audio files at all. It specifically addresses video. Why would someone think that a policy specifically addressing the review of video files also applied to songs? A reasonable person would not, and would assume a song was not covered by the policy.

Basic Bob

Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 4:34 a.m.

Why would you believe that an Internet-based audio clip is fundamentally different from video? They are only different to the visually or hearing impaired.


Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 12:23 a.m.

I think Macklemore's statement is quite thoughtful and even diplomatic in that he does not harshly criticize South Lyon but emphasizes the need for constructive dialogue on tolerance and acceptance. I think it's very interesting that South Lyon has restored the teachers's that the same thing as reversing the suspension? Just yesterday the Detroit News reported that they were standing by the suspension, citing a violation of rules. I strongly suspect... as others do... that this so-called policy, was rarely, if ever, followed or enforced.


Fri, Nov 30, 2012 : 10:33 p.m.

To be fair, the School District has posted a statement about this on their website and made a link to the form in question (the one the teacher allegedly should have used). On the form, it explicitly states that reducing intolerance is a justification for playing a clip. It says: "While some profanity, violence, or frankness in dealing with sex may be present, the video/DVD opens a clearer vision of life, engenders understanding of other people, and/or breaks down intolerance." The form is marked as having last been updated in 2010. That said, suspending the teacher for such a minor violation of this rule is harsh and stupid, and any administrator with half a brain should expect that doing something like this would get a big reaction. (Next they should try banning some books and see what happens!) I took a class at South Lyon High School (circa early 90s) called "20th Century Culture" where an entire portion of my grade was determined by a song I chose, played in class without vetting by anyone other than the teacher to my fellow students, and with commentary by me about the music and what I thought it meant. All the other students had to do the same. Evidently my teacher should have been suspended. I had another teacher at Centennial who, close to the holiday break, played "A Christmas Story" for us. We had to get parental approval to watch that one, but tell me: what benchmark would that have met for my education? (It was a math class!) Does good morale count as a benchmark for education? What I would like to know is how often this form is actually used, how often this rule is enforced, and how often a teacher's request is denied (and on what grounds). Would this song have been approved had the teacher gone through proper channels?

Billy Bob Schwartz

Fri, Nov 30, 2012 : 11:37 p.m.

This form sounds like CYA to me. Nobody really wants to read these forms and nobody really wants one turned in. Ever. They do want to be able to say, "Hey! Where's the form?!" once the matter hits the rotator.


Fri, Nov 30, 2012 : 10:27 p.m.

Some things can go right after all. Good for her. At least she gave those kids some food for thought and made them think. That is what teachers are supposed to do isn't it?


Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 3:18 a.m.

I mostly agree with you. I just wish she hadn't sounded so smug on the radio this morning.


Fri, Nov 30, 2012 : 10:05 p.m.

When are educators going to stop bringing, what people do in their bedroom, into the curriculum? Schools were told many years ago, to stop presenting, what people do in their church, so what is the difference? Many people believe homosexuality is immoral, so why hold that stance to a different level? I'm sure the Muslim population of this area, would not want their children, to be forced to hear, that Jesus is the son of God (or homosexuality is an alternative lifestyle). One more point. The schools in Asia, are definitely not wasting the students' time, watching music videos. Maybe, that should be the bigger question about Ms. Johnson's decisions. Ms. Johnson, leave the parenting to us. We will raise our children, with the values, we wish to impose.


Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 10:23 a.m.

And a child asked for the clip to be played.

Charley Sullivan

Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 2:15 a.m.

First of all, Bogie, "Asia" is a big place, and there are many, many, many different types of school systems there. But, speaking for at least several countries in Asia where I have direct experience, teachers do in fact use and discuss music videos when it's appropriate. Now, on to parenting . . . realize that if you "impose" values on your children, most likely they will end up rejecting them. Values aren't imposable. And, in many of those same "Asian" school systems, teachers spend a huge amount of time teaching "official" values, just FYI. In the end, this is really about what you see as your right to raise your kids without them ever encountering points of view you might disagree with. Well, you can do that, but you don't prepare them to be part of a diverse nation that way. And you don't have the right to insist that they never hear anything you may disagree with in public schools. There is one clear thing that public schools may not teach, and that is religious instruction, i.e., one may not teach that "Jesus is the son of God." One may teach about religion, as in "Christians believe that Jesus is the son of God." For your own personal sake, I pray God will grace your life with a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender child, so you may learn that all of us are God's children.

Urban Sombrero

Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 2:04 a.m.

Fifty years ago, people like you were railing against mixing races. Here's a hint: History is not, nor will it be in the future, on your side.


Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 1:35 a.m.

that's "discuss sex with kids".


Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 1:34 a.m.

I have always been suspicious of unauthorized adults that want to discuss with kids.

Billy Bob Schwartz

Fri, Nov 30, 2012 : 11:35 p.m.

Study schooling in Asia. Do you really want your kids and grandkids to be dehumanized and not encouraged to develop imagination and creativity and so forth. I don't.


Fri, Nov 30, 2012 : 11:19 p.m.

Nice, punctuation Bogie, !


Fri, Nov 30, 2012 : 11:17 p.m.

So exposing students to ideas (other than those they may hear in their own home) is parenting? Silly me - thought exposing students to ideas and facilitating meaningful discussion was part of education.

Ross Dunbar

Fri, Nov 30, 2012 : 9:40 p.m.

The school board and parents of South Lyon should immediately demand the resignation of William Pearson, and if he refuses to resign, he should be fired. He has done immense harm to the community of South Lyon through his actions. The students and parents of South Lyon deserve better.

Basic Bob

Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 4:28 a.m.

In South Lyon, the school board and most parents probably agree with his actions. Your opinion matters, only if you live there.


Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 3:20 a.m.

Yes, because it's always good to over-react in response to an over-reaction.


Fri, Nov 30, 2012 : 9:32 p.m.

The fact that all clips have to be submitted to the building administrator before use, shows just what kind of a district this is.


Fri, Nov 30, 2012 : 11:37 p.m.

you think that doesn't exist in Ann Arbor???

Woman in Ypsilanti

Fri, Nov 30, 2012 : 9:11 p.m.

I like how William Pearson, the S. Lyon superintendent, was pretending like he had a choice in this matter. I mean, this story got national attention and had he not quickly backed down, this would have been very embarrassing for him and for the S. Lyon school district.


Sun, Dec 2, 2012 : 2:29 a.m.

towncryer: In various threads about this event, South Lyon has been characterized as entirely populated by bigots and right-wing extremists. My point in making the assertion I did (i.e. that I was ashamed that such a thing happened at a place with which I closely identify) was to say that not all of those of us who live here, who are from here, who were educated here, support the draconian actions of the administration. It is not only "Ann Arbor types," as someone wrote below (whatever that means), who think the administration's actions were harmful; it is someone from within the community most directly affected who thinks that, and I'm sure I'm not the only one. Yes, I will live, as I hope will the student, the teacher, and everyone else involved. I never suggested otherwise, and that was very much not my point or anyone else's, though I appreciate your concern for my well-being. I don't know the specifics of the Ann Arbor event you reference, but I do know that apathy and bromides like "you'll live" are unlikely to solve any problem anywhere ever. Whatever that event was that you mentioned, it clearly wasn't forgotten by you, since you brought it up. You disproved your own assertion.


Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 3:22 a.m.

Justin, only a few short years ago Ann Arbor was embarrassed in the media throughout the country and the world (Daily UK) by allowing a black-only field trip sponsored by the principal. Guess what, no one was fired, no one got suspended, no one got in trouble and all is forgotten. You'll live.


Fri, Nov 30, 2012 : 9:30 p.m.

I am a South Lyon resident and an alumnus of Centennial Middle School. I am ashamed that this fiasco would have happened in my home town, at my alma mater. It is too late to avoid embarrassment. The damage is done.


Fri, Nov 30, 2012 : 9:09 p.m.

Can't help but wonder why the school district backed down so quickly. My bet is on the following: Enforcement of this policy likely had never before resulted someone being suspended. Indeed, it is likely that video clips had been shown in other classes many times with no consequences whatsoever. And, if that's the case, the school district was open to a massive lawsuit as well as charges they they were homophobic. Hence, end the suspension to eliminate the chance of a lawsuit. The scent of homophobia will be there for a long time. Good message, South Lyon!!!!

Susie Q

Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 2:15 p.m.

Usually this type of thing happens in Howell or Brighton.


Fri, Nov 30, 2012 : 8:46 p.m.

Rule! Rules? We don't need no stinkin' rules. If the teachers don't follow the rules you cannot very well expect the students to follow them. The district said in a statement earlier this week that the use of recorded material in class is covered by the staff handbook. "It requires that instructor to first preview any taped material to be used in the classroom, including YouTube clips, then submit a completed form about the proposed clip to a building administrator for approval," the district said.


Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 2:46 p.m.

"Ridiculous is believing that any individual person always makes the right decisions, on their own, the first time. Most of us need help." Using this logic, why should a supervisor have the power to make the decision. After all won't they need help from the Superintendent, who will need from the school board, etc......? At what point do we allow highly paid professionals to make their own decisions. Oops. There's my mistake. Among the professions teachers are, by far, the most poorly paid. No wonder think they know more than teachers about what works best in classrooms.

Susie Q

Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 2:14 p.m.

This IS a rule that precludes the "teachable moment" and anyone who thinks ptherwisr has probably never been in a teachable situation with students in any setting from scout leader to Sunday school teacher to public or private school. To get "completed form" to the principal prior to listening or watching ANYTHING is ridiculous. Certainly it is advisable for the teacher to preview the material and make a responsible decision. I cannot (nor can most posters) say whether or not that happened in this case.

Basic Bob

Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 4:24 a.m.

"eliminates the possibility of teachable moments" Only if you are unable to ASK YOUR SUPERVISOR. Following that SIMPLE rule avoids the big surprises that result in parent complaints, suspensions, and media scrutiny. Sure, you don't have to ask your boss/parents/spouse/S.O. for permission, but a little conversation up front actually improves communication! This is a great lesson that not only middle school students but also middle school teachers need some help understanding. Ridiculous is believing that any individual person always makes the right decisions, on their own, the first time. Most of us need help.


Fri, Nov 30, 2012 : 10:01 p.m.

This is a ridiculous rule that eliminates the possibility of teachable moments that might use technology such as audio or video clips (two mediums that are applicable and interesting to young adults). The rule, not the teacher who played the song, is the real problem.

Billy Bob Schwartz

Fri, Nov 30, 2012 : 8:37 p.m.

Shoot first; think later. Good plan.