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