Appreciation Week begins next week for teachers at Lenoir City High School in Lenoir City, Tennessee but one teacher will be more concerned with getting a pink slip — or a jail cell — than a red apple. Journalism teacher James Yoakley is under attack by Tennessee school board member Van Shaver for an article titled, “It’s OK to be Gay,” which was written by a student and published in the school’s yearbook.
Lenoir City High School became infamous earlier this year after Krystal Myers, a student and the editor of the school paper, wrote a detailed op-ed in a local newspaper, saying, “I feel that my rights as an atheist are severely limited when compared to other students who are Christians.” The school had refused to publish the Myers op-ed in the school’s newspaper.
“In this twisted world we live in, some may believe It’s OK to be gay but it’s darn sure not OK for teachers to be promoting homosexuality in our high schools,” Shaver wrote in a blog post, “It’s Not OK,” on his personal blog, in which he claims the article is “promoting a gay life style.”
Below is the page in this year’s Lenoir City High School year book promoting a gay life style. I do not know the young man featured in the article nor do I even know if he is a student. But I do know this article could not have made it into the year book without a teacher approving it.
Mr. Yoakley is also the teacher who a couple of years ago refused to allow the two students Christian based article to run in the Panther Press. So apparently, Mr. Yoakley would discourage Christian values yet promote atheism and homosexuality.
Some might think I’m intolerant toward homosexuals but that would be wrong. If an individual wants to be a homosexual, that’s their own decision and they will have to live with the consequences of that decision. What I am intolerant of is an adult, a teacher no less, inflicting their personal beliefs and sexual orientation decisions on impressionable students.
If in fact it was Mr. Yoakley or any other teacher who allowed this article to be published in the year book, they should be dismissed from the school immediately. If it is found or known that Mr. Yoakley or any other teacher at any time has had any conversations or discussions with this student or any other student about their sexual orientation, sexual activities or anything about their private lives prior to those students being of legal age, those teachers should be charged with child sex abuse by an authority figure and arrested.
I and I know many other parents and members of our community expect a full and open investigation by school administrators and law enforcement into this issue and to hold accountable any and all those who had a hand in this despicable act.
Apparently, members of school boards in Tennessee aren’t given any boundaries or lessons or training on basic American law — like separation of church and state — which Shaver’s comments attest — and which explain why Krystal Myers’ op-ed was censored from publication.
On his personal blog, Shaver also posted nine emails, apparently written by current and former students of Lenoir City High School, which he calls “evidence” of “how important it is to know who is influencing your children eight hours a day and the dangers your children face when that influence is counter to what you as parents feel is right for your children.”
In other words, Shaver posted nine emails from people associated with the school who vehemently think he’s wrong, and therefore, in Shaver’s mind, apparently, they received an education from unfit teachers. But hey, we all know what it’s like “in this twisted world we live in.”
Shaver is so wrong on so many points it’s hard to know where to start.
But I’d like to ask Mr. Shaver, exactly what consequences he believes come to people who are gay? And then I’d like to ask him when he chose to be a heterosexual. And then I’d like to ask him what qualifications he has to be a school board member, what training does he have, and what medical knowledge does he have about homosexuality. Because his statements reveal a profound lack of understanding of medical science, the law, humanity, and common decency.
Frankly, the ACLU should pay a visit to Tennessee.
Writing at Patheos, Hemant Mehta reveals:
First of all, Shaver is a member of a school board! THAT IS HORRIFYING! (Just to be clear, the Loudon County school board Shaver sits on doesn’t control neighboring Lenoir City High School. So he doesn’t actually have any authority in this case. Still, the fact that an elected school board member could be this full of animus against gay-friendly teachers should set off alarms for everybody in the community.)
Second, Yoakley had nothing to do with the article. A high school student (the editor-in-chief) assigned it, another high school student wrote it, and Yoakley simply looked it over, like any faculty sponsor would.
The forced-to-remain-anonymous student said as much:
“My journalism professor never once pressured us to have certain beliefs,” she said.
Courtney Price, the editor of the yearbook, sent a message to Shaver — and he was so appalled by it, he posted it on his website:
My name is Courtney Price. I am editor of the yearbook. Sir, excuse my rudeness, but you do not have your facts straight. I decided to publish Zach’s story. I did not do this to cause any kind of uproar, or religion target. I am an 18 year old Southern Baptist student who is in a four year relationship with a man. I am in no way trying to plead a case for homosexuals, and taking from your stupidity, I can tell you did not read the yearbook. There are multiple stories about kids who have been bullied because of their lives (disabled kids, adopted kids, kids with tattoos, etc.) along with stories about hanging out at church. I would enjoy if you would stop your slander. Thank you.
Andy Towle at Towleroad adds:
Knox News reports that petitions are being circulated hoping to deny Mitchell the right to attend graduation, and threats are being made at the student who wrote the article:
The yearbooks were distributed Friday. By Monday, local blogs had taken up the fight both for and against the article and the yearbook’s faculty adviser, James Yoakley.
“I have received an unbelievable number of emails from parents and concerned citizens,” said Lenoir City High School Principal Steve Millsaps.
According to students, petitions were being circulated urging others to tear the page from their yearbook as a sign of protest during graduation or to deny Mitchell the right to attend the ceremony. The 17-year-old student who wrote the article said she was afraid to have her name published.
“There have been threats made starting with, ‘If I found out who wrote the story,’ ” she said.
Yoakley has been teaching at the school for 11 years, according to the paper.
ACLU, where are you?…
By the way, a review of Shaver’s blog reveals this post from last year:
Best Military Quote:
“When I joined the military it was illegal to be homosexual,
then it became optional, and now it’s legal.
I’m getting out before Obama and the
Democrats make it mandatory.”
Sgt Harry Berres, USMC
Shaver, apparently a radical right wing Tea Party extremist, in 2010 on his blog wrote, “Barrack Hussein Obama is determined to turn America into a Marxist-Socialist society.”
In 2008, Shaver also wrote:
Day Of Silence is sponsored by an activist homosexual group, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). GLSEN leads the students to believe that every person who identifies as a homosexual, bisexual or cross-dresser is a victim of ongoing, unrelenting harassment and hate. Students are taught that homosexuality is a worthy lifestyle, homosexuality has few or no risks, and individuals are born homosexual and cannot change. Those who oppose such teaching are characterized as ignorant and hateful bigots.
We invite you to sign up for our new mailing list, and subscribe to The New Civil Rights Movement via email or RSS.