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Suspension lifted on Michigan school teacher who played ‘gay’ song

Wednesday, December 5, 2012
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SOUTH LYON, Mich. — A Detroit-area middle school teacher who was suspended last week for playing a “gay theme” song in class, has been reinstated and her docked pay restored following public outcry.

Susan Johnson, a teacher at South Lyon Centennial Middle School had played the song “Same Love” by hip hop entertainer Macklemore to her eighth grade performing art students as a way to teach them about tolerance and diversity.

Susan Johnson
Image via WJBK-TV

The song includes lyrics about harassment faced by gay youth, and follows the struggles of a gay man from birth through death.

But after a student complained to administrators, Johnson said she was called to a meeting and told she should have asked permission before playing the song. She said she was escorted out of the school and told she was suspended for a total of three days, two of which would be unpaid.

The school district cited a policy that requires instructors to obtain permission before using any recorded material to ensure that it “supports the curriculum for the class.”

On Tuesday, Johnson’s suspension was lifted after protests from the public, students, alumni and the American Civil Liberties Union. A district spokesperson said her pay will be restored as well, reported the Detroit News.

“I am willing to not uphold the suspension, but the violation of the district practice regarding web-based clips and our expectations for instructions previewing materials under this will remain in writing,” said Superintendent William Pearson, in a statment.

The ACLU has pledged to continue scrutinizing the situation.

“That’s good news that her pay will be restored and that she’s back at work, but we will continue our investigation,” said Jay Kaplan, staff attorney for the ACLU of Michigan’s LGBT project.

“Was it about the policy, or is it related to the school not truly wanting to have these topics discussed? We want to make sure they’re not trying to censure a message of tolerance for gay people,” said Kaplan.

“This incident is just one of tens of thousands that have happened across the country where schools have exposed a latent homophobia, preventing safe space for all young people to feel confident in being themselves,” wrote Macklemore on his blog last week, in defense of Johnson.

“It’s clear that Ms. Johnson felt bullying and ‘gay bashing’ were issues that needed to be addressed, and by doing so, was punished. … It’s discouraging that a song about love and civil rights has led to a teacher getting suspended from her job. But that’s where we are at,” he wrote.

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