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

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

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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12 more reader comments:

  1. Where is Freedom of Expression? Is it still alive?

    Posted on Wednesday, December 5, 2012 at 5:04pm
  2. yeah freedom of exspression my ass

    Posted on Wednesday, December 5, 2012 at 5:09pm
  3. Freedom of expression is clinging to life.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 5, 2012 at 5:09pm
  4. This is bullshit! You have teachers that bully & harass students & they aren’t held accountable yet a teacher attempts to spread the message of tolerance & she’s punished?!! There aren’t enough explicits in the English language to express my outrage.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 5, 2012 at 5:17pm
  5. I see a lawsuit in that school’s immediate future

    Posted on Wednesday, December 5, 2012 at 5:18pm
  6. they better not hire me then…everything I do has a rainbow flag tucked in there somewhere

    Posted on Wednesday, December 5, 2012 at 5:19pm
  7. Because loving and accepting everyone is a horrible message to be sending to young people :/

    Posted on Wednesday, December 5, 2012 at 5:20pm
  8. Whatttt? We are punishing people because they want to teach kids to love and accept everyone? Insane.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 5, 2012 at 5:45pm
  9. Reading stuff like this boils my blood!!!! It is a good thing I didn’t teach in that system!

    Posted on Wednesday, December 5, 2012 at 5:45pm
  10. Yay!

    Posted on Wednesday, December 5, 2012 at 5:59pm
  11. Hola
    Como esta tu y
    Bn muy gracias que bueno

    Posted on Wednesday, December 5, 2012 at 6:31pm
  12. Boy I would just love to be that superintendent and have to live with that embarrassment. The thing is thea jerk probably dosn’t know enough to be embarrassed about the ordeal.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 5, 2012 at 6:50pm