News (USA)

Tulsa students suspended after LGBT poster defaced

Booker T. Washington High School, Tulsa, Okla.
Booker T. Washington High School, Tulsa, Okla.

TULSA, Okla. — Nearly a dozen students at a Tulsa high school have been suspended after a poster encouraging awareness about bullying and harassment of LGBT students was defaced.

A group of Booker T. Washington High School students created posters promoting the national “Day of Silence” last month on which students take a vow of silence to call attention to the effect of bullying on LGBT youths in schools, the Tulsa World reported.

One student recently recorded another vandalizing a poster. Images were then posted to a social media website called Phhhoto with the caption including a gay slur. Nine more students recorded “likes” on the post.

“Booker T. has a pretty long history of being diverse, and (the principal) thought it was important to send a strong message about hate speech and how we’re not going to tolerate it,” said Chris Payne, a spokesman for Tulsa Public Schools.

One of the two main instigators behind the incident was suspended for 10 days for the vandalism and cyberbullying. The other was placed on a longer-term suspension.

“He has had a pattern of behavior. There had been other incidents — he had poured water on incoming freshmen who were LGBTQ students,” Payne said. “There were nine additional suspensions (for three days each) for students who went out on social media and said they liked the video.”

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Social studies teacher John Waldron helped organize a discussion Wednesday among students involved in making the poster and those suspended.

“We wanted the students who had been suspended to have a human face on people who were offended, and we wanted the students who were offended by this to have a voice.

“Our purpose wasn’t to take a position or to moralize in any way,” Waldron said. “We just wanted to try to restore respect. We’re all Hornets (the school’s mascot), and we need to respect each other.”

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