By Dawn Cranfield
Principal of Teacher Suspended over Playing Gay Song Claims She Failed to Acquire the Proper Permission
Susan Johnson, the middle school teacher at the center of the controversy over playing rapper Macklemore’s Same Love, only wanted to support her school’s policy of tolerance and diversity. Instead, she was suspended indefinitely; later, in a closed door meeting, she was told she would be suspended for two days without pay, one day with, for a total of three days.
The performing arts teacher played the pro-gay song when one of her students asked her to prior to class. Johnson asked the student if there was any foul language or violence in the song; when she was satisfied the song would be appropriate, she opted to play it for the class.
One student complained to the principal about finding the lyrics offensive and Johnson was called suspended by the end of the day.
In a letter Johnson was given, during the closed door meeting, the reasons cited for her suspension were that the song contained controversial content such as religion, homosexuality, political views, and a sexual slur. The principal also stated Johnson also should have asked permission before playing the song.
However, in an interview with the local Fox News reporter, they stated she would have been denied the request. The reporter in the videotaped interview went on to stress only the song had been played in the classroom and not the video.
Conversely, on the school’s official website, there is a note from the school superintendent, Bill Pearson; he states there is a requirement that all videotaped material must be approved 72 hours in advance before being shown in the classroom. He goes on to say, “The employee neither
previewed the YouTube clip, nor submitted the form for approval as required. Instead, a student gave the clip to the employee at the beginning of class and the employee showed the clip to the class. The clip had no relationship whatsoever to the instructional class content planned for that day. 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.” (http://www.slcs.us/)
The form is another interesting contradiction, after the typical boxes, blanks, and lines for time, date, classroom, there are lines like, “While some profanity, violence, or frankness in dealing with sex may be present, the video/DVD opens a clearer vision of life, engenders understanding of other people, and/or breaks down intolerance. Is there any material in the video/DVD which can be construed as controversial or objectionable (i.e. profanity, nudity, violence, etc.)?” (http://www.slcs.us/)
The very essence of the wording would lead an educator to believe that if he or she were to submit this type of song it may be approved. I have read the lyrics and they are not violent, abusive, or filled with trashy language; especially compared with some of the music teenagers listen to.
The form continues with a checklist of how to select a clip or a DVD; some of the requirements include, “Does not perpetuate stereotypes based on race, ethnic background, sex, age, or handicap”, “Encourages students to evaluate controversial issues and situations and to make their own judgments”, and “Contributes to the character development and social growth of students by providing opportunities for insight into their lives and/or by enlarging their view of the world”.
Imagine for a moment that the district truly stood behind their teachers and believed every word of this form they created. If they encouraged students to evaluate controversial issues, then Susan Johnson would not have been suspended. Instead, the school district showed their ignorance and intolerance. As far as contributing for character development and social growth by providing opportunities for insight, if any of these children have good parents, this would be a great teaching moment at home.
View the lyrics to “Same Love” here