It’s encouraging that so many students, parents and others in the small Missouri town of Kearney are offended. They’re offended, that is, on behalf of the two gay graduating high school seniors whose quotes alluding to their sexuality under their yearbook pictures were censored by school officials who’ve said they removed them without any warning because they wanted to avoid offending anybody.
In what ought to have been a surprise to no one, that’s not what happened.
The two young men whose messages were deleted should never have had to leaf eagerly through their new yearbooks looking for themselves, only to find, oh, a blank space under their photos where the captions they’d written were supposed to be.
And those officials should have had more confidence in the good people of Kearney than to imagine that they couldn’t handle that uber-edgy message from Joey Slivinski, whose excised quote said, “Of course I dress well. I didn’t spend all that time in the closet for nothing.”
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Or the one from Thomas Swartz, who had written that “If ‘Harry Potter’ taught us anything, it’s that no one should have to live in the closet.”
Give us a minute to compose ourselves, would you?
Thanks. Now, anyone who has ever met an 18-year-old, or been one, has no trouble grasping that a yearbook adviser and school principal might want to check the student messages prior to publication.
But to single out these two is plainly discriminatory. Were they thinking no one would notice? Or that it wouldn’t have been a good idea to discuss the deletions with the students and their families?
And if Kearney were really as homophobic as they seem to have assumed, how did the town come to elect openly gay Matthew Ryan Hunt to the local school board?
“None of my fellow board members or district administrators involved in this incident knows what it’s like to be openly gay in such a small town like Kearney,” Hunt wrote on Facebook. “None of them know the sacrifices made and the courage shown by these two individuals to come out as gay in high school.”
School officials have apologized to the two, but they still don’t have their story straight. In a statement, officials suggested that they’d actually been trying to protect the young men from criticism.
“We acknowledge our mistake,” it said, “and will use it as a learning opportunity to improve in the future.”
Kearney Superintendent Bill Nicely seemed not to have gotten that message, though, and put out his own statement explaining that “several quotes, not just the ones seen in the news, were omitted for varying reasons,” all of them in error.
So, when does the learning opportunity begin?
The deleted quotes
“Of course I dress well. I didn’t spend all that time in the closet for nothing.” — Joey Slivinski
“If ‘Harry Potter’ taught us anything, it’s that no one should have to live in the closet.” — Thomas Swartz