undeserved punishments

Michigan High Teacher Suspended For Telling Anti-Gay Student To Shut It

The best thing high school teacher Jay McDowell has going for him? Besides being the complete opposite of Arkansas school district board member Clint McCance, the Facebook hate spewer who attacked “fags” wearing purple on Spirit Day? That McDowell, a teacher at a Michigan high school, has an entire classroom to back up his version of events on Spirit Day, where he reportedly criticized a student who showed up to class attacking the ‘mos.

McDowell, a Howell High School teacher who is also president of the Howell Education Association teachers’ union (which is in the middle of an unrelated email privacy squabble), is accused by a student’s parent of turning Spirit Day into a chance to voice his support of homosexuals.

A student walked into McDowell’s classroom and said, “I do not support gay individuals,” according to David Boeving, a Howell alum whose younger brother attends the school. McDowell, according to Boeving, asked the student to leave the class. The student asked to leave was wearing a belt with a Confederate flag belt buckle, Boeving said, which, he added, McDowell took issue with.

First, let’s not pretend any student has ever uttered the phrase “I do not support gay individuals” verbatim. Me thinks there’s a good chance of a gay slur being used in the place of “gay individuals.” And there must have been some dialogue about Spirit Day, and what it represents, to prompt such a comment. Second, students enjoy their First Amendment rights while at school, unless their behavior inhibits the normal activity of a school — and talking about how you hate an entire class of people, in front of all your peers, is more than enough to cause a disruption. What should McDowell have done, let the student say his piece and then quietly sit in his desk for the period? No, what McDowell did was appropriate: Tell the student to get out of the class for talking crap about gays, some of whom undoubtedly were also in that classroom, to keep the peace.

McDowell, who isn’t commenting publicly, posted to Facebook yesterday that he was on a one-day suspension without pay. But not everybody is letting McDowell’s reputation sink.

At last night’s school board meeting, a former student of McDowell’s spoke in his defense, but was quickly told by board President Debi Drick that matters of a personnel nature couldn’t be discussed. He then spoke only about his experiences as a gay student and how McDowell had been supportive. A parent then spoke to the board and also praised McDowell, although never mentioning the suspension issue. Deputy Superintendent Lynn Parrish had earlier told WHMI that because it was a personnel matter, the district could have no comment.

It’s not a personnel matter when the safety of LGBT students is at risk. Really.

And while privacy laws might keep us from knowing if the student received any punishment, the Howell Public School District’s own Code Of Conduct (PDF) specifically states what can lead to students’ expulsion: hate speech.

[WHMI, Livingston Daily]

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  • David

    A teacher getting suspended for telling some loud mouthed little prick to leave the classroom? Fucking disgrace..

  • Oscar

    This is an even “better” story when you know that until 1992, one Howell resident0 was a KKK Grand Dragon. Pretty area, but not a really friendly place for non-whites, non-Protestant, or non-straights.

  • reed

    i never understand why normal people live in such sdrawkcab-ssa places…

  • FlopsyMopsyCT

    I see this as being part of a greater problem. Schools are not allowing teachers to properly conduct their classrooms in a respectful manner that is conducive to all students’ learning. The fact that this teacher was suspended for putting this kid in his place says a lot about this school and its administration. I totally agree with the author that the student’s phrase mentioned in the article was, most likely, not what was actually said. If the teacher told him to get out for simply saying he didn’t support gay people, I would tend to disagree with the teacher’s reaction. Realistically, it probably got a bit more heated than that.

  • MikenStL

    FYI for anyone wishing to contact info the School Board Pres….

    Debi Drick
    Email: [email protected]
    Term Ends: December 31, 2010
    Ms. Drick was elected in 2008 with a term through December 31, 2010. Ms. Drick serves on the Human Reproductive Health, Strategic Planning and Personnel Committees, and is the Chairperson of the Marketing Committee for Parker High School.


  • Brian

    This has to be a joke. A teacher is just that – a teacher. Teachers provide not just an academic education, but a social one as well. Part of teaching is to demonstrate and draw lines for appropriate behavior socially, along with rules and respect, challenging young minds to think deeper, beyond what they ‘think’ they know. This is education. If a teacher cannot call out a student based on what is acceptable behavior, what a bumpy ride we all have ahead of us. Remember, us parents will one day need to rely on our children – the younger generation – to care for us, to make decisions for us in our old age. Let’s not screw ourselves by forgetting to teach and to allow our educators to teach acceptance, patience, and compassion.

  • Ervin Parker

    Public Schools are neither the place for homosexual advocates nor as avenues of social engineering. Homosexuals have become a public nuisance.

  • Big D

    Howell is a fine place to live; just have to beat the ignorance out of the rednecks, because we all know each and every one of them is a insignificant little pussy. Bring it on, bitches, come get your ass demolished by big D’s dick.

  • declanto

    @Ervin Parker: “Public nuisance.” Because we are demanding our constitutional rights??? TROLL.

  • skinner city cyclist

    This is disgraceful. I have no doubt that the student used words other than those given in the report above. I am a teacher, and i would have sent the student for discipline as well.

    I escaped Howell into the US Army in 1980. Pretty area, yeah, I guess it used to be before they dug up all the farmland, woods, and marshland and replaced it with little boxes made of ticky-tacky. It is an area particularly hostile to GLBTQ issues (e.g., some years ago cafe owners in nearby Brighton put a small rainbow sticker in their window and you would have thought it was an explicit ad for a Castro bathhouse). When I visit, people stare at me in stores due to my ponytail. Lots of Christian bigots.

  • me

    Howell High forever
    We will always be
    Faithful and loyal
    In our love for thee (rah! rah! rah!)
    Hail! Hail!
    The gang’s all here
    Round our colors bold!
    We’ll stick together
    For our dear Green and Gold!

    That’s the HHS fight song, real story!

  • me

    I’m glad I don’t live in Howell anymore.

  • skinner city cyclist

    You and me both…I mean, “me and me both.”

    Incidentally, if you really went to HHS, you know the song is usually sung “Howell’s high forever”…..;-)

  • adman

    @Ervin Parker: Public Schools are neither the place for heterosexual advocates nor as avenues of social engineering. Heterosexuals have become a public nuisance.

  • wesley stone

    @David: @FlopsyMopsyCT: i personally know this kid and his mom and i know the situation and have heard the story from many different perspectives. There were 8 witnesses called down to the office to get the story straight and he did not bash gays or say anything offensive. The teacher got what he deserved so fuck you

  • wesley stone

    @FlopsyMopsyCT: you wanna hear what he really said? he said “im catholic and gays are against my religion”

  • wesley stone

    @skinner city cyclist: you dont know the situation. i was there when this kids mom was talking to the teacher on the phone and he confirmed several times that the student didnt use any offensive language or give any real reason to discipline him and obviously the school administrators agreed with the student. You werent there, you dont know the story, your just another person reading the news whos opinion doesnt matter so dont act like you know what your talking about.

  • aburke

    As a former HHS student, I’m far from surprised that this went down. I mean, wear your confederate belt buckle. Be my guest. But don’t you dare walk into a classroom proclaiming “I hate fags” and expect to get away with it. It’s utterly disappointing that administrators like principal Moran make it acceptable to turn the blame around on a teacher who was only doing his job.

    Also, the kid’s mother: your child would have been perfectly fine had he been respectful to his classmates, whether gay or straight…too bad he decided to be an ignorant ass. The fault is on him and nobody else. Stop whining and exercise some discipline.

  • Big D

    @Big D:

    Hey motherfuckers, freedom of speech doesn’t exclude certain words in the English language, which is a form of communication, so when I want to express emotion with words I’ll do so without your fucking opinion. Fucking disgraces, you work for a living, doubt you live for work, so pull your huge heads out of your asses and breathe. Bitches.

    Much love, your superior.

  • adman

    @Big D: Hey son, the motherfucker here is clearly you, since you’re the guy here who loves pussy close to home, right? Conform to the mob mentality of hetero-chodehood all you like. It’s the choice you make, and besides, douchebags who escape the servitude that a homophobia invested life would otherwise free you from will only learn that you are the truely bad example to be held up in ridicule.
    Wishing you the most tortuous and tiresome mediocre existence sucking small town preacher dick for crumbs, since I know all those queer kids will escape one day, we all have, but you never will! I’ll let you figure that one out on your own though, since I am myself enough of a sadist to enjoy your fall from the safety of the bosom of your mob of cowards. Good day.
    get me a fucking beer, you peaked at 15 son, bad move frat boy.
    Gay God.

  • GOD

    Don’t look down on the bullies. Don’t be tellin’ kids to shut it when they talk down on the gay. Our nation has been under gay rule the whole time. They are closet fags and some out in the open like Barney Frank. A well known Rockefeller funded the study of pedophilia by Kinsey which resulted in the Kinsey Scale. (A scale to measure how gay you are) GOOGLE: kinsey pedophile self mutilation and see all the neat TRUE articles about our country that is trying to population control with gay subversion through movies, music, and the Rothchild owned Associated Press. The Catholic church is behind it all. DON’T BE A DUMB GAY, please.

    Your God
    Leviticus 20, Verse 13

  • wesley stone


  • Clay Boggess

    I’m not sure that the teacher deserved to be suspended; however his actions against the students appear to be inconsistent at best. If he feels that he is allowed to wear something that stands for something that he believes in what right does he have to deny someone else from expressing their views as well? As long as there is no obvious violation or obscenity then both should be protected by the constitution.

  • Wicked Glitter

    My wonderful hometown is in the news once again for being the racist, narrow-minded piece of shit place that it is. And you thought I was exaggerating when I told you that I had to quit my job to protect my son from the bullies in this hateful little town. Finally one teacher tries to stand up and do the right thing, and what happens? He gets fucking suspended. Not only was he suspended, the comments by some of the ‘Christian’ townfolk are downright scary.

  • Alex

    Hold up. Which version is the truth? This version differs from virtually all the other versions I’ve read from other news sources. It wasn’t the kid’s belt buckle, it was a girl’s which the teacher asks that she remove daily, there was the teacher’s purple shirt involved and the kid in question asked why the belt buckle (which could be seen as freedom of expression) couldn’t be allowed if the purple shirt was. I’m not sure on the facts after that but the kid was told to leave the classroom sometime after that.

  • Cea

    Ervin, You’re a nuisance.

  • Andrew

    @wesley stone:
    From your statement, you make it pretty clear you weren’t there (in the room) either. You claim to be in the know because you were eavesdropping on a phone call. That doesn’t exactly make you someone whose opinion is worth anything either. Just saying.

  • Maria

    To “God”:

    First off, do not sign yourself off as God. You are not Him. Also, don’t mark the Bible, when you don’t know how to read it. Lastly, do not incorporate the fallacies of a religion’s downfalls. It’s not fair, and has nothing to do with the faith itself. They are people, with human mistakes. I hope you can realize this.

  • Person


    Freedom of speech (or, as you put it, “freedom of expression”) is limited in schools for oftentimes warranted reasons to avoid disruptive atmospheres. Wearing a t-shirt adorned with a swastika, for instance, would be fine at a rally in the public arena, but in a public school, the racism and hatred associated with the symbol would lead to discussions teachers and faculty are supposed to avoid (at an angry parent’s behest).

    That is why the Confederate flag is an issue around much of America. A lot of people see it as sign of “Southern heritage” while many others see it as an antiquated symbol that stands for one of the most sinister things about America’s past, state-sponsored racism and slavery. (I hope my bias on this argument doesn’t offend you; I just have trouble seeing the opposing view on something like this).

    I praise this teacher.

  • DavidUK84

    “Free speech for everyone, just as long as they don’t say anything I don’t like.”

    If you people believe students should be compelled to approve of pro-gay days at school, then say so. Stop pretending you’re in favour of free speech.

    Same old story.

  • Kelly Harvey

    It’s’ not surprising to me that zero tolerance for bullying, hate crimes, or freedom of speech is “cherry picked” for it’s convenience. Anytime, someone has the integrity to do what should clearly be “right” it will be twisted, taken from it’s context and used for any personal, religious, or political agenda whenever and where ever possible. Clearly, this is another fine instance of that as well. So many players here … from my perspective the only rational thing I’ve heard has come from a 14 year old child who eloquently made an argument for the human condition -regardless of your personal or political beliefs take a moment to contemplate what that young man has offered…wisdom! In my opinion, from any prospective it was “your mouth to God’s ears young man.” (how’s that for personal, religious, and political) Bravo, your parents have done a fine job and you, young Mr. Taylor are an inspirational to old and young alike.

  • Chrisf

    @DavidUK84: Be “compelled to approve of pro-gay days at school”? Really? Next you’ll say, “Those GAY people are trying to ram their lifestyle down our throats!” Don’t be an idiot. Okay, TRY to not be an idiot. Maybe it’s beyond you.
    Supporting the rights of HUMAN BEINGS to live free of cruelty and evil — to merely live, even, to stay alive — is not the same as ‘forcing someone to approve’ of something. I really don’t give a damn if you or anyone else “approves” of something. You don’t get to take out your problems on other people, and neither does anyone else.
    You don’t have to approve of anything. Nobody needs your approval. You WILL have to ACCEPT some things, however. People have the right to live. We all do. Everyone has the right to live without fear of harm others inflict in hatred and cruelty.
    Same old story.

  • Fiona

    I’m sorry, but you can’t walk to into a job and announce “I hate homosexuals.” Why should school be any different? (This is leaving aside the issue of human decency.) This kid is going to have a world of heartache when he gets out into the world and realizes it doesn’t work the way he thinks it does.

  • Jareth

    If the report is accurate, then the teacher was wrong. Every student has a right to express his or her opinion, as a first amendment right. If the student said: “I do not support anti-gays”, would he have been thrown out? I think not. It’s a double standard, you can only express your opinion if it is of the popular mind set. I am gay and I support gays. I also support all the people who are straight, bisexual, lesbian, transgendered and their right to express themselves, as long as it isn’t “hate speech” that hurts another person or group. They let this kid be interviewed an express himself as being gay and I don’t hear anyone complaining about that. Now let the other kid express himself as being straight!

  • Jareth

    @DavidUK84: I AGREE!!

  • Jareth

    @aburke: The gays are expressing themselves, why shouldn’t the straights or Catholics be able to express themselves? It’s a first amendment right!

  • Jareth

    @Clay Boggess: YES! I totally agree.

  • Cassandra

    “If the report is accurate, then the teacher was wrong. Every student has a right to express his or her opinion, as a first amendment right. ”

    No. The first amendment does not guarantee that students in school can say anything they want to say, otherwise, every junior high school boy like you would be shouting “f*ck f*ck f*ck f*ck . . .” all day long, just to be “clever”.

    People with life experience recognize that not all messages are equal. The condemnation of a group of people is not the moral/ethical equivalent of the message supporting their civil equality. Oppression is not the equivalent of liberty.

    And posting four posts of empty affirmations is not the same as participating.

  • SizeQu33n

    @Cassandra: and your post IS participating?

  • jimmyjack frankentoast

    as much as i support gay rights i also support free speech. yes, that includes ‘hate’ speech. if ‘hate’ speech isn’t protected, none of it is. it is a violation of that students rights to kick him out of class to ‘keep the peace’. the school districts own policy that the author has listed is a violation of free speech. doing this to ‘keep the peace’ also implies that these students aren’t capable of acting rationally in response. i think they are, and if they were to become violent, that is what should be punished. the teacher, and other students, have every right to criticize and discuss his sentiments, but it’s unfair to make him leave the class his parents tax dollars are funding for merely voicing his opinions. school is supposed to be a marketplace of ideas, not a marketplace of acceptable ones. i think this kid’s bigoted rhetoric is total bs, but as Sir Leslie Stephen said:

    I, for one, am fully prepared to listen to any arguments for the propriety of theft or murder, or if it be possible, of immorality in the abstract. No doctrine, however well established, should be protected from discussion. If, as a matter of fact, any appreciable number of persons are so inclined to advocate murder on principle, I should wish them to state their opinions openly and fearlessly, because I should think that the shortest way of exploding the principle and of ascertaining the true causes of such a perversion of moral sentiment. Such a state of things implies the existence of evils which cannot be really cured till their cause is known, and the shortest way to discover the cause is to give a hearing to the alleged reasons

  • gmt903

    I just want to say that people complain about teacher unions, but THIS is exactly why they exist. If there was NOT a teacher’s union, this teacher could have been fired in a snap. Because teachers are so much a part of the public, their jobs are that much more insecure. A good union doesn’t allow for incompetent teachers to stay stuck in the system. A good union protects its teachers from unjust situations, such as this one.

    Many of you who support this teacher have also probably, at some point in the past, bashed teacher’s unions. I just want you to try and understand why they are necessary. And finally, one other somewhat related comment: What other profession do you know of that has a board that oversees all decisions of that profession but has NO PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE in that profession? I can’t think of any. As my dad, a CPA, puts it: We don’t have a board of non-accounts (let’s say… electrical engineers) telling us what decisions we need to make in our profession.

    But you do in teaching.

    Unions are necessary to protect good teachers, like McDowell.

  • david dixon

    Are we all at risk for protecting the rights of individual rights of students? check the news on my recent firing.

  • Dave

    @david dixon: This isn’t the same thing, Mr. Dixon. Your heart was in the right place but your judgment didn’t follow.

  • Todd

    @jimmyjack frankentoast: ALL YOU PEOPLE TALK ABOUT FREE SPEECH AND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION iF THATS TRULY THE CASE THEN THE WHITE TRASH KIDS SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO WEAR WHITE HOODS TO SCHOOL AND CALL EVERYONE NIGG** Kids are in school for one thing to learn To act like proper young adults, It is my opinion that we need to let teachers have full control of the classroom if a kid acts like a punk then kick there ass plain and simple

  • Read, please


    You’ve got the facts wrong. *All* parties agree that the discussion was perfectly civil. The teacher just didn’t like the ideas being presented, so he kicked the kid out.

    If the kid had been rude, I’d be all over kicking him out. As it was, the kid engaged in reasoned conversation and the teacher had NO legitimate reason to kick him out.

    The investigation revealed these points and suspended the teacher. The *teacher* agrees that the kid was not rude or disrespectful.

    Them’s the facts.

  • Raist


    As much as I like the intentions of the teacher and I admire and I am impressed with the Graeme’s eloquence and clear thought while communicating at his age, I must say that if all the kid that raised his hand to ask a question and replied with “I don’t accept gay people, it’s against my religion,” I honestly don’t think it should warrant expulsion from the classroom.

    It would be different if the kid said a gay slur or insisted on the point, that’s different. But if that’s how it happened, I am honestly very sorry but I can’t agree. And I am gay.

    We can’t have it both ways.

    I say this with greatest respect for Jay and Graeme.

  • Richard

    The phrase “I do not support gay individuals” is not hateful. It is a negation. It simply states what this person does not do. Perhaps, rather than sending the child out of the class, the teacher could have asked “When you do not support gay individuals, what do you do?” (Likely answer “I feel angry” or, at a deeper level, “I feel afraid”.) This could have been an opportunity to explore this issue rather than just blame the child for making a clumsy attempt at expressing these feelings. I wonder if he would have been treated similarly if he had said “I do not support homophobic individuals”? This is exactly what the teacher did. Rather than supporting this child and working with him to explore his attitudes he simply excluded him, with the likely result of making him even more disenfranchised and afraid of showing his feelings in front of men.

  • Richard

    @Fiona: As reported he didn’t say “I hate homosexuals” but rather “I do not support gay individuals”.

  • j sykes

    Another queer nazi “teacher”

  • j sykes

    No other opinions other than ours!
    I swear if I hear anything different than what I believe, I am going to throw such a heated tantrum. I promise you that!

  • Mike

    If the Teacher would have been supportive of the heterosexual lifestyle or perhaps in some way been discussing his faith of not the homosexual but instead of the heterosexual lifestyle how would you feel. Would you be lobbying for his suspension, or perhaps for him being relieved of his ability to teach.

    Hypocrites abound a this site. You are OK as long you agree with my point of view. WOW…………

Comments are closed.