School officials say economics teacher Jay McDowell is to blame for an altercation which resulted in his suspension.

Officials at Howell High School in Michigan say they won't reverse their one day suspension without pay against McDowell for removing a student from his class after the student said he doesn't accept gays, despite a loud protest.

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 late last week said witnesses reported that McDowell yelled, slammed doors, called the students racist and discussed how they should be disciplined with other students, the Daily Press & Argus reported. Claims McDowell has denied.

“There is a common thread throughout the witness statements,” Howell Superintendent Ron Wilson said. “Based on the statements, administration determined that Jay McDowell acted inappropriately in response to a question that was not bullying in nature. The entire day's atmosphere created an environment ripe for such questions to be asked.”

The incident received nationwide attention when gay teen Graeme Taylor came to McDowell's defense at a school board meeting.

The fourteen-year-old Taylor said 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.”

Taylor will appear Monday on the Ellen DeGeneres Show to discuss the issue.