Principal of Teacher Suspended over Playing Gay Song Claims She Failed to Acquire the Proper Permission

Susan Johnson

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

Centennial Middle School – Michigan

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.” (

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.)?”  (

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”.

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis

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


4 Responses to "Principal of Teacher Suspended over Playing Gay Song Claims She Failed to Acquire the Proper Permission"

  1. Rob Farrell   November 29, 2012 at 4:21 pm

    It is not a “gay song” or a “pro-gay” song. The song and video are about LOVE, tolerance and treating everyone the same. You sound bigoted when you reduce the message of the video down to being “a gay song”.

    • dawn7   November 29, 2012 at 5:30 pm

      I thought about not replying to your comments, journalistic integrity and all… you know, not defending my work.

      However, as I was simply reporting this story, I picked up the words “Playing Gay Song” from the other stories in the news. I debated whether or not I should use the same terminology. Still, after debating with myself I opted to use the term, for better or for worse. I used it for impact, I suppose. I wanted people to read my story; I needed it to catch their eye, as it did yours.

      Though, I had believed once it was read, people would understand my view was not one of intolerance. If you read to the end of the article and not just the title, you will see my point.

      The article was not written by somebody who is bigoted, but somebody who researched, read many articles, read the song lyrics, and then formed an opinion. I did not just read the title to one article and then start commenting.

      But, thanks for starting a discussion. I appreciate you giving me the chance to pontificate further.


      • Rob Farrell   November 29, 2012 at 6:42 pm

        Thanks for the reply. I hear you. I read your entire article. I know you are not bigoted. I said you “sound bigoted” when you use terms like “gay song” and “pro-gay song” (a term which btw YOU chose to use in your third paragraph.)

        Words matter. Using such terms parses this sad episode into a polarized (religion-tinged) mess that got Ms. Johnson suspended in the first place. The song and video are above that.

        • dawn7   November 29, 2012 at 6:49 pm

          Thank you for responding. I re-read what I wrote; in the line you are referring to; again, that was part of the story I had picked up in my research and used the terminology used by other sources.

          I can see how the word has become one with negative connotations associated with it. By no means did I intend to add to the negativity. In fact, just the opposite.

          I wanted to show how the school district should not have suspended her, if they had used the form they designed, they would be promoting tolerance. I read the lyrics and thought they promoted peace, love, harmony, and tolerance for all.

          Thank you again for commenting and pointing out my flawed writing; I will surely be more aware when using other people’s words.


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