Gay Teen's Coming Out Story in Yearbook
Artist: Taylor Ellis
Date of Action: August 2021
Region: North America
Location: Sheridan, Arkansas
Confronting Bodies: Sheridan High School, Superintendent Dr. Brenda Haynes of the Sheradin school district in Arkansas
Description of Artwork: 17-year-old Taylor Ellis’ high school profile, which recounts his experience of coming out:
"“I use [sic] to be scared to say that I'm gay. It's not fun keeping secrets; after I told everyone, it felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders.” He also said, "Some guys are more reserved around me now. But not a lot of people have been mean about it, thank God. I'm actually in a good situation. I'm very lucky.”
The Incident: Declaring that they wouldn't "make decisions based on the demands of any special interest group," Superintendent Dr. Brenda Haynes of the Sheradin school district in Arkansas has signed off an a decision by a local high school to censor the "coming out" profile in the yearbook. The president of the national Human Rights Campaign, Chad Griffin, is also a Sheradin native, and he is using the weight of his organization to force a reversal of the school's decision. He wrote a letter to the school's superintendent and principal:
"As an Arkansas native and a former elementary school student in Sheridan, I was taught the Golden Rule— about treating others as we would like to be treated. Whatever you may say about your intentions, it does not change the fact that you have failed to uphold these values that all fair-minded Arkansans share. Addressing bullying requires stopping bullies, not muzzling harmless free expression."
The school responded by saying they were, "mak[ing] decisions which are consistent with the mission of [the] school." And according the Arkansas Student Publications Act of 1995, the students have final say.
Results of Incident: State Governor Mike Bebee's office has been reluctant to intervene after much lobbying from The Human Rights Campaign and the Northwest Center for Equality.