District explains why teacher that played 'gay' song suspended - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

South Lyon district explains why teacher that played 'gay' song suspended

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By Taryn Asher
Fox 2 News


SOUTH LYON, Mich. (WJBK) -- A South Lyon teacher was back to work Thursday after being suspended for playing a so-called "gay" song in front of her class.  We got comments from parents and school officials.

It's called "Same Love", the song her student asked her to play in class, but Susan Johnson believes it's the lyrics that led to her suspension from Centennial Middle School in South Lyon last week.

"I'm very disappointed in the bias, the bigotry, that I feel that they're really hiding behind," she told us on Wednesday.

Johnson agreed to play the song that tackles the dangers of hate and negative stereotypes by showing the struggle of a homosexual man from birth to death.  She said she wanted to use it as a learning tool in her eighth grade performing arts class.  A student complained and the next thing she knew, Johnson was placed on unpaid administrative leave while the district investigated.

"I thought it could be the basis for a good conversation," said parent Kim White.

Parents didn't know about the district's decision until they saw our story Wednesday night.  Some feel a suspension was too harsh.

"I thought that the song, it was nice, but maybe she should have talked to the principal and assistant principal first about it," said Danelle Demucha.

The South Lyon School District released a statement explaining why the teacher was suspended.  Basical she didn't follow the proper protocol, filling out the forms, asking permission or previewing the clip beforehand.  It's something this teacher claims she never had to do before, and she claims she even asked the principal if she would be allowed to play the song if she did all of that and he said he still found the song was inappropriate.

Documented in the paperwork the teacher was given, the district also pointed to controversial content -- homosexuality, religion, political views and a sexual slur.

"It's important to support educators and we continue to work with educators on creating safe spaces," said Jesse Fullenkamp with the Ruth Ellis Center.

The organization, which is based in Highland Park and provides services for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered youth, is disappointed in the district's decision, but not surprised.  It's why it offers a program where they go into schools and train administrators and faculty on LGBT awareness.

"Regardless of whether or not they're LGBT students in a space, if we're not creating environment that's tolerant that's a huge problem," Fullenkamp said.

Johnson is back to school, but the fight is far from over.  The ACLU is now involved and a graduate of South Lyon helped create a Facebook page in support.  They're working to raise money to pay Johnson for the days the district did not.

"It's trying to help South Lyon to understand the diversity of everything here.  I mean it's a 99 percent white population here and people aren't open to new things," said Alex Cristen.

"I really love my kids and I never want to hurt them," Johnson said.

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