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
“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.”