Jefferson County student, administrator at odds over gay rights

Jefferson County student, administrator at odds over gay rights name tags

Posted:
"We weren't trying to be flamboyant," said Hannah. "We were just identifying." "We weren't trying to be flamboyant," said Hannah. "We were just identifying."
The students say school officials made them remove the tags. The students say school officials made them remove the tags.

By MONA NAIR
6 News Reporter

DANDRIDGE (WATE) - Local high school students say their school administrators denied them the right to participate in National Coming Out Day.

The internationally-recognized day raises awareness about the LGBT community and the Civil Rights Movement.

The students involved were wearing name tags stating their sexual orientation, but say school officials made them remove the tags.

The school says they weren't infringing on civil rights, they were trying to keep the school day from being disrupted.

"With these name tags, we weren't trying to be flamboyant," said Jefferson County High School student Hannah Bradley. "We just put our sexuality on it, you can think what you want about it. We were just identifying."

It was meant to be a way to help students struggling to come out with their sexuality. Hannah Bradley is president of the Gay-Straight Alliance at the school.

The group hasn't been endorsed by school administrators.

"These were friends who were predetermined and said, 'Hey, can I get a nametag? Come give it to me before school in the morning.' There were several friends I knew coming out using these tags. I not going to lie. I cried finding out some of my friends were asexual dealing with the same issues as me."

Hannah said in a lot of ways they were achieving the goal of National Coming Out Day until she was called to the principal's office.

"I said, 'What's going on? Why I am here?' He said we were creating a controversy within the school. I asked how, he claimed that our school is about reading, math, biology. We don't study that kind of thing out here. We don't endorse a particular sexuality or particular religion."

Hannah believes that isn't true because there are religious groups that promote their activities on campus.

While no one at the school would do an interview, the principal released a statement saying:

"We respect these young ladies' rights, but felt like it was a disruptive situation for them to ask other students to wear a tag identifying their sexuality," said Dr. Scott Walker of Jefferson County Schools.

The Tennessee Equality Project is backing the students.

"When the adults in a young person's life show disapproval or judgement about his or her identity, it presents many challenges in his or her development. The suicide rate is also higher in this population of youth," said Christopher Sanders, the president of the group.

"This has to do with social behavior and whether or not they fit in," said Hannah.

"Coming Out Day is a way to say 'It doesn't matter what you think' to the bullies. It's about how I identify myself."

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