Arkansas student Taylor Ellis says he knows exactly why his school yearbook axed his profile – because he’s openly gay. The Arkansas 17-year-old claims school officials yanked his yearbook write-up because he sleeps with men, shares CNN on Thursday.
“It's a big thing in Sheridan to be gay,” the yearbook's assistant editor, Hannah Bruner, told CNN affiliate KATV. “That something that doesn't get told a lot.”
Bruner helped Ellis to tell his story in a lengthy profile that was set to appear in their Sheridan High School Yellowjackets yearbook.
Ironically, Ellis wrote of how accepting the community of Sheridan had been of his sexual orientation, as well as the trepidation and stigmas he had overcome for being gay.
Sheridan Superintendent Brenda Haynes released a statement, saying the school cannot make decisions based on demands of what she calls “special interest groups.”
We must make decisions that lead in the proper direction for all of our students and for our community. We must not make decisions based on demands by any special interest group… We have reviewed state law, court cases, and our own policies. It is clear that the adults who have the responsibility for the operation of the District have the obligation to make decisions which are consistent with the mission of our school. We have done so.
Ellis says the school yanked all seven profile write-ups that were set to appear in the yearbook, but claims the school’s decision to do so was just a cover up for the one profile they wanted out – his.
“We have a good idea why they're not going into the yearbook,” Ellis said. “They don't want to just throw out the gay kid's interview.”
It appears the school’s decision has backfired; the small town of Sheridan, and Taylor’s story, are now getting national attention.
“I’m already openly gay, so there's no reason that it should affect how people see me,” the teen said.
Representatives from the Human Rights Campaign – a national civil rights organization – staged a demonstration on the State Capitol steps in support of Ellis, and delivered a 35,000 signature petition to the Sheridan School District calling on them to publish the profiles.
“This act of discriminatory censorship sends a dangerous message to all LGBT students in Sheridan, across Arkansas, and the nation — that they are second-class citizens and their lives are not equally valid,” HRC President Chad Griffin wrote. “Tens of thousands of fair-minded Americans are speaking out against this discrimination.”
Ellis, for his part, wants nothing to do with the town of Sheridan after he graduates.
“They're history,” Ellis said. “When I'm done with Sheridan, I'm done with Sheridan. I have one more year, and after that, I'll thank God every day that I'm not there anymore.”