A gay teen has come to the defense of a teacher suspended for coming to the aide of another gay teen, the Detroit Free Press reported.

School administrators disciplined Jay McDowell, an economics teacher at Howell High School in Michigan, with a one day suspension without pay for removing a student from his class after the student said he doesn't accept gays.

The incident occurred on Spirit Day, the October 20 event that urges people to wear purple to remember gay teens who have been bullied to death.

Wearing a purple shirt, the teacher asked a student to remove a Confederate flag belt buckle, which prompted a boy to ask how the flag differs from the rainbow flag, a symbol of gay unity.

“I explained the difference between the flags, and he said, 'I don't accept gays,'” McDowell said.

McDowell told the student it was not appropriate to say such things in the classroom.

“And he said, 'Why? I don't accept gays. It's against my religion,'” the 42-year-old McDowell said.

School officials say they suspended the teacher, who sent the boy out of the room for a one-day class suspension, because he violated the student's free speech rights and courted controversy by wearing a purple shirt.

Fourteen-year-old Graeme Taylor was among the dozens of people supporting McDowell at a school board meeting on Monday.

Taylor said he was gay and bullying had driven him to a suicide attempt.

“I've been in classrooms where children have said the worst things,” the boy told the board. “The kinds of things that drove me to a suicide attempt when I was only 9 years old.”

“These are the things that hurt a lot,” Taylor said. “There is a silent holocaust out there, in which an estimated 6 million gay people every year kill themselves.”

“He did an amazing thing,” Taylor added. “He did something that inspired a lot of people.”