BULLSH!T: Detroit Teacher Suspended For Playing Song About Homosexuality; UTG Loses It

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I try really hard to keep us out of political waters as often as possible. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not because we don’t care about the issues the impact our readers, it’s actually quite the opposite. You see, we recognize that a large portion of our readers hail from all over the world and it just seems a bit egotistical to assume everyone gives a shit about what us Americans have to complain about. We’re here to discuss entertainment, and that should be catered to as many people as possible.

All that aside, this story came across my desk today and I felt compelled to write something. A teacher in South Lyon, Michigan was recently suspended for three days, two without pay, after allowing one of her students to play a song for the class that promoted equality and acceptance of homosexuals. The song, which is entitled “Same Love” and performed by rapper Ben Macklemore, was brought to the teacher’s attention after a student requested that he play it for her 8th grade music class. The teacher, referred to in the story as Ms. Johnson, asked the student about the song’s content before playing the tune, making sure that there was nothing violent or profane contained within the lyrics. You can stream the song, which is accompanied by a well-executed short film style music video, below:

As you can see and hear, the song follows a homosexual man’s journey from birth to death, leaning on visuals to help paint a correlation between the various phases of hetero and homosexual romance. We’re all born, we all question ourselves, we all have awkward development years, we learn to love, we get hurt, and we learn to love again. Ms. Johnson saw this message as one that students needed, and is quoted by a local Fox news affiliate as saying, “This is one of the things in my school that we’re trying to practice and we’re trying to instill in our students is tolerance to diversity.”

I’m of the opinion the Ms. Johnson is correct in this assessment, and having viewed the materials in question see no fault with the decision to play the song for her class. Unfortunately, not everyone in Ms. Johnson’s 8th grade music class agreed, and one student went on to complain in the principal’s office about the content of the track. Before the final bell of the day rang, Johnson claims the principal and assistant superintendent told her she was suspended indefinitely without pay.

As you can imagine, Johnson was shocked to learn of this decision. When the same Fox affiliate spoke with the Assistant Superintendent, Melissa Baker, it quickly became clear that she didn’t care to elaborate, stating:

“No one is going to have a comment for you. We don’t go on camera here in South Lyon…”

At a closed door meeting that later took place, Johnson learned that her suspension would last three days total. When she asked about the reasoning behind the suspension, Johnson was given documents from the school district claiming the song had controversial content — homosexuality, religion, politics views and a sexual slur. The papers also stated that Johnson should have asked for permission before playing the song.

Normally I would let a headline about controversial music in schools pass by without mention, but this is one story I could not let go. I completely understand the need to keep conversations about religion and religious teaching outside the school, but since when is the concept of tolerance a lesson that is shunned? It doesn’t make sense to me why anyone would claim to have a say over what someone else does with their own life (as long as it does not directly, be it physically or financially, impact others in a negative way), and I especially do not understand why someone would prevent anyone from sharing that message of acceptance.

It is almost impossible to go a week, let alone a full day without hearing of another teen who decides to take their own life following some form of bullying at school, and now that someone (A STUDENT, no less) tries to step forward and do their part as a member of the group we’re trying to reach, we’re still not being proactive. Schools and parents need to not only more fully realize the severity of the situation at hand, but also recognize that there is no change without resistance. Some people will not be happy that you’re trying to teach their kids that everyone is equal and allowed the same right to happiness they are, and that is a problem that will never go away. You cannot stop the winds of change because a small amount of people disagree. If that were the case, so much of what we’ve discovered about ourselves, our world, our culture, and the way we’re all connected would still be a mystery.

People are people. Ms. Johnson and this student, whom I would high 5 a thousand times given the chance, recognize this and attempted to share that message with others. Was it wrong? If you ask me, no.

What do you think of this story? Comment below and let us know your thoughts.

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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  • Had sexuality been left out of it and it leaned solely on unnamed differences it would have flown. Mrs. Johnson’s intention was good but she should have known how twitchy districts are about being sued. Mentioning sex in the class is almoat a guaranteed suit. Wrong but true.

  • A moment dedicated to promoting acceptance, equality, fairness, and love is absolutely needed in schools across the country and the world. Too long we’ve let discrimination be the norm because people want to avoid ‘controversial’ topics. But if we don’t have a discussion, how are we to keep progressing as a society? And this applies to various forms of discrimination, not just sexual orientation. Discrimination and bullying due to race, religion, sexuality, gender identity, political beliefs, even music taste and subculture are so prevalent in our schools and our world. And this can’t keep being pushed aside. As mentioned in the article, people have DIED because of this. Bullying, discrimination, hate. It’s all very real and very dangerous. I’m glad you wrote about this. The more resources that do bring awareness, the better.