A high school is apologizing for removing two gay teenagers’ yearbook quotes after concern that their messages would offend others.
Joey Slivinski and Thomas Swartz, who just graduated from Kearney High School, just outside Kansas City, MO, were surprised to open their yearbooks to discover that their clever quotes were missing from their senior photos.
Slivinski’s quote read, “Of course I dress well, I didn’t spend all that time in the closet for nothing,” and Swartz wrote, “If Harry Potter taught us anything, it’s that no one deserves to live in the closet.”
Yahoo Style could not reach Kearney School District superintendent Bill Nicely for comment; however, the school issued a statement to local news station KCTV5, which read in part:
“District administrators were made aware of concerns regarding the removal of senior quotes from the school yearbook. Each year, graduating seniors are provided an opportunity to pick a favorite quote to be placed in the yearbook. In an effort to protect our students, quotes that could potentially offend another student or groups of students are not published. It is the school’s practice to err on the side of caution. Doing so in this case had the unintentional consequence of offending the very students the practice was designed to protect. We sincerely apologize to those students.”
Both Slivinski and Swartz told Yahoo Style that they were unavailable for comment. However, Slivinski told KCTV5, “I’m comfortable in my own skin and with who I am. It felt like the district took that from me.” Swartz added, “They need to know what they do is wrong. I want to tell my story about what happened.”
There’s been support for the teens online, including from Matthew Ryan Hunt, a gay school board member who expressed his solidarity in an Aug. 10 Facebook post.
“None of my fellow board members or district administrators involved in this incident knows what it’s like to be openly gay in such a small town like Kearney,” he wrote. “None of them know the sacrifices made and the courage shown by these two individuals to come out as gay in high school. They were courageous enough to be themselves and stand tall, which is something I couldn’t do in 2009 when I attended Kearney.”
Good morning: this morning I sent off my statement to the Kearney School District in response to their statement to…
A meme that reads, “I stand with them,” which includes a screenshot of the teens’ yearbook photos and their original quotes, is being shared across social media.
Unfortunately, plenty of other teens have been excluded from their yearbooks because of their sexual orientation.
In 2014, senior Jessica Urbina was dropped from San Francisco’s Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory School’s yearbook for wearing a tuxedo in her official portrait. According to Mic, the school pointed to a dress code violation as the reason for the ban, but that didn’t sit well with Urbina’s classmates, who organized a protest while wearing neck- and bow ties, along with a social media movement using the hashtag #JessicaTux.
The year before, Brennan High School, in San Antonio, Texas, refused to run a yearbook photo of 16-year-old Felicia Rivera with her girlfriend, despite the fact that the couple were chosen by their classmates to be featured in a Valentine’s Day photo montage. The school claimed that the image depicted too much PDA. “It’s just an intimate picture; there’s no eye contact. They’re both looking down. It looks like a pretty intimate moment,” school spokesman Pascual Gonzalez told the San Antonio Express News.
Meanwhile, yearbook quotes reading, “I don’t know what’s worse, candy corn, or women’s rights,” “If you have never thought about dropping out and becoming a stripper once, you’re lying,” and “Build that wall” somehow bypassed the yearbook editing process at schools around the country.
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