by David Mendez
A South Lyon, Mich. music teacher was suspended last week for allowing a student in her class to play a rap song that promoted gay rights in her class.
Last Wednesday, Susan Johnson gave one of her students permission to play Macklemore and Ryan Lewis's "Same Love," a song supporting the expansion of gay rights.
The video in question.
Detroit's WJBK-TV has the story:
The song is called "Same Love" written in support of same sex marriage. Underground rapper Ben Maclemore tackles the dangers of hate and stereotypes by showing the struggle of a homosexual man from birth to death. As Johnson listened to the song, she said she thought to herself this was something her students could learn from.
"This is one of the things in my school that we're trying to practice and we're trying to instill in our students is tolerance to diversity," she explained.
However, another student in class didn't agree with the lyrics, went to the office and complained. Before the school day ended, Johnson claims the principal and assistant superintendent told her she was suspended indefinitely without pay.
Johnson was eventually told that she would be serving a three-day suspension—two days paid, one day without.
A district assistant superintendent, Melissa Baker, issued this statement to the Associated Press explaining the reasoning behind the suspension, according to Advisor and Source Newspapers:
“The district has an established practice, included in the staff handbook, that requires the instructor to first preview any taped material to be used in the classroom — including YouTube clips. Then (the teacher must) submit a completed form about the proposed clip to a building administrator for approval,” Baker said in the statement.
“The clip had no relationship whatsoever to the instructional class content planned for that day,” Baker said. “The purpose of this established practice is to ensure that instructional materials are appropriate for the course and its students. It is because we care about all students that we have this procedure in place.”
According to WJBK-TV, the ACLU and gay rights group Affirmation both plan to get involved, so this may blow up further—it's interesting enough to keep watching, at least.
For what it's worth, the song is a great inclusion on an album that merits consideration as one of the best of the year, and its message is a huge part of that. It's just a shame that playing this song for her class may have harmed Ms. Johnson's career—though, I suppose, protocol is protocol, particularly when the song in question does drop the word "faggot," even as it derides what the word stands for.
To sum: Johnson
and her student were was in the wrong; the district is in the right; Macklemore and Lewis's song is amazing; the student is a hell of a person for introducing it to the classroom; and my soul dies a bit more upon begrudgingly agreeing with bureaucracies. Hooray.