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Wichita East High School Stands By Student’s Right To Pen Homophobic Bile In Student Newspaper

Remember high school student Colin Johnson’s wonderful Wichita East High School op-ed “Homosexual teens alienated by current societal trends,” where he quoted from the Bible to argue why gays are basically only going to find salvation by dying? (Okay, we’re paraphrasing.) Turns out his school is going to stand by his First Amendment right to hate his classmates.

“This article, like the hundreds of opinion pieces published throughout the school year in student newspapers throughout the Wichita Public Schools, is the opinion of one individual,” the school says in a statement. “As with opinions expressed in community media outlets such as the Wichita Eagle and local television stations, the views of one person do not necessarily represent the school or district opinion or position on an issue. Mr. Johnson’s piece is the expression of his opinion, a right afforded to him and all students through the First Amendment and the Kansas Student Publications Act, which specifically notes that ‘material shall not be suppressed solely because it involves political or controversial subject matter.'”

Hey, they’re right! Johnson does have First Amendment rights. Know what’s not covered by the First Amendment for students? The right to disrupt normal school activity. Which explaining why homosexuality is “a social disruption in may cases and should be kept out of school to ensure our education mission with as little of a distraction as possible” might do!

The statement continues:

East High administration, teachers and student editors recognized that the opinion of this one student author would prompt potentially uncomfortable reactions and passionate responses from individuals with a variety of perspectives. To this end, East High Principal Ken Thiessen met with members of his school’s student organization representing students with alternative lifestyles, explained the circumstances leading to publication of this student opinion, and invited students with a different viewpoint to respond with their own opinion piece. Messenger student editors prepared and published their own response to Mr. Johnson’s editorial, consulted with the Student Press Law Center in Washington, DC, and have continued the long-standing Messenger tradition of inviting students with different opinions to participate in the conversation.

The opinion of one student writer does not change the Wichita Public Schools’ commitment to providing a safe and nurturing environment for all students. Our high school student newspapers fulfill an important role as we work to prepare students to become critical thinkers and contributing citizens of our community upon graduation. Our district will continue to encourage respectful dialogue and open conversation about a variety of issues, while at the same time ensuring the rights of all students.

Can a high school be a safe place for gays when it permits students to use the Bible to excuse their homophobia? Only if that same high school thinks it can have students writing about how blacks are an inferior race, because hey, that’s just the “opinion of one student writer.”

I’ll at least give Johnson points for being honest. From his Messenger piece:

Some youth that we have grown up with have never truly accepted or welcomed the gay population. Groups like the Gay-Straight Alliance here at East High try to make the relations between the hetero- and homosexual groups more conjoined as a student body. It is an honorable attempt, though how effective it really is, is yet to be seen.

However, the generation preceding our own has had such an anti-gay sentiment that it is difficult for our generation to accept these same sex relationships as a commonality.

But then he delves into the idiotic:

These relationships just are not normal. One thing to notice is that there is legislation against homosexual marriage. However, there are no legislative restrictions to same sex dating. Dating does often lead to marriage, so same sex dating should be frowned upon.

Some teens see it as abnormal, as well as the intimacy that comes with it. Some people believe that since the Bible verse Leviticus 18:22 said “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination,” they do not think it is proper for same sex relations.

Also, less commonly cited, is the death penalty called for in another Bible verse, Leviticus 20:13, “If a man also lie with man, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.” These are the most common arguments against homosexual marriage and/or dating.

Same sex dating in high school is not accepted by many, despite the efforts of a few. It is a social disruption in many cases, and should be kept out of school to ensure our educational mission with as little of a distraction as possible.

Rewind just a few decades, and we’d be reading a student’s words about how “interracial dating in high school is not accepted by man, despite the efforts of a few. It is a social disruption in many cases, and should be kept out of school to ensure our educational mission with as little of a distraction as possible.” And it would’ve been excusable then, too, I guess.

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On:           Feb 24, 2011
Tagged: , , , ,
    • Francis

      First amendment doesn’t protect this. That’s a cop out. This kid wrote a letter targeting a group of citizens, and students, and called them abnormal, unacceptable, socially disruptive and deserving of DEATH. HE is the one creating a situation that is disruptive for LGBT students of that school system. Pretty much ALL of the reaction towards this has been negative against this brat. Just because you say something does not mean you don’t have responsibility for those actions. The school board is essentially saying what the kid said was *perfectly* acceptable. They didn’t say what the kid said was WRONG, that’s glaring. If they cared about LGBT students they wouldn’t allow such a hateful message to be run on their SCHOOL NEWSPAPER of all things. What this kid wrote and their acceptance of it is a direct reflection of their attitudes. Wichita East high school needs to be raked over the coals for this.

      Feb 24, 2011 at 3:45 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Vast Variety

      Unfortunately the 1st Amendment does protect this students right to his hateful bigoted speech. Just as the 1st Amendment protects the right of other students to stand up and speak out against that hate.

      Feb 24, 2011 at 4:24 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Paul

      As a former student journalist in a public Kansas high school, I can understand the school’s decision to stand by the student’s right to publish what he pleases. Kansas’s laws on student journalist First Amendment rights are more liberal than most states’ and state very clearly that an administration has no right to control what they publish. Clearly this student is a homophobic jerk, but the only people allowed (and who should allowed) to dictate editorial policy are the students. Teaching them what is ethical and not to publish is the school’s job.

      Feb 24, 2011 at 5:06 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Paul

      As a former student journalist in a public Kansas high school, I can understand the school’s decison to stand by the student’s right to publish what he pleases. Kansas’s laws on student journalist First Amendment rights are more liberal than most states’ and state very clearly that an administration has no right to control what they publish. Clearly this student is a homophobic jerk, but the only people allowed (and who should allowed) to dictate editorial policy are the students. Teaching them what is ethical and not to publish is the school’s job

      Feb 24, 2011 at 5:08 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Shannon1981

      Free speech doesn’t protect hate speech. Furthermore, the principal is an obvious homophobe and should be removed. He is creating a hostile environment for gay students.

      Feb 24, 2011 at 5:18 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • berto

      “Free speech doesn’t protect hate speech. ”

      Like hell it doesn’t. Free speech is what it is: free. I hate what he’s writing but he has a right to his opinion. You have a right to yours, too, which I guarantee he thinks is wrong and not fit for sharing.

      Feb 24, 2011 at 8:27 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Bubba

      lol @ misinformed queerty commenters who don’t understand the purpose of the First Amendment.

      Of course the school has the right to not publish whatever content it so chooses, the same way it has the right to institute a dress code and ban certain articles of clothing.

      Free speech means that the government can’t step in–in this case, I’d assume, the town council–and demand that an opinion piece such as this one not be published. But the free speech clause of the US constitution doesn’t forbid all censorship everywhere.

      Now, the fact that the state government also has laws that decree that a school can’t control the contents of a school student newsletter is something else, and does raise questions about what else (if anything) the administration could have done in this situation.

      But the constitutional notion of “free speech” doesn’t apply to cases in which the federal government (“Congress” in particular) is not participating.

      Feb 24, 2011 at 8:39 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • berto

      Bubba, some of us are commenting on what is right versus what is a right. Props on the long winded condescension, though.

      Feb 24, 2011 at 9:13 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Oprah

      “Only if that same high school thinks it can have students writing about how blacks are an inferior race, because hey, that’s just the “opinion of one student writer.”

      Well, one may have that opinion– thats ok. First amendment is duely noted. But that opinion is not in the Bible, is it? However, Homosexuality as an abomination sin- is in the Bible. The student has every right to express his opinions based on his religious beliefs and doctrination. I dont see anything wrong with that. If anything– i envision a healthy religous debate and conversation.

      Feb 24, 2011 at 9:28 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Mark

      Wonder if we’ll be reading about him down the track as a revival style tent preacher and gets caught with rent boys carrying his luggage around?

      Feb 24, 2011 at 9:48 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Mark

      @Oprah: then someone better be writing about eating shellfish (it’s an abomination), wearing cloth of two fibers (that’s an abomination too!).

      Feb 24, 2011 at 9:50 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Oprah

      Mark, you are just being Christopher Hitchens now. Its not cute really. Repent or you will burn. lol

      Feb 24, 2011 at 10:31 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Soupy

      How about cursing your parents? That’s an abomination too. Sleeping with your wife when she has her period? Ditto.

      Feb 24, 2011 at 10:38 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Anon


      Genesis 9:25-27: “Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers. He also said, ‘Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem! May Canaan be the slave of Shem. May God extend the territory of Japheth; may Japeth live in the tents of Shem and may Canaan be his slave’. ”

      Christians traditionally believed that Canaan had settled in Africa. The dark skin of Africans became associated with this “curse of Ham.” Thus slavery of Africans became religiously justifiable. Author Anthony Pagden wrote:

      “This reading of the Book of Genesis merged easily into a medieval iconographic tradition in which devils were always depicted as black. Later pseudo-scientific theories would be built around African skull shapes, dental structure, and body postures, in an attempt to find an unassailable argument–rooted in whatever the most persuasive contemporary idiom happened to be: law, theology, genealogy, or natural science — why one part of the human race should live in perpetual indebtedness to another.” 1

      Feb 24, 2011 at 10:40 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Soupy

      Owning and selling slaves is okay, but god is very particular about the geographic and calendar limitations on it.

      Feb 24, 2011 at 10:44 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • kernelt

      I got to say THE FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION DOES NOT PROTECT HATE SPEECH! maybe they get it this time, who am I kidding they’re deaf and meathead..

      Feb 24, 2011 at 11:16 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • asdf

      @Oprah: How exactly does that a good response to Mark’s quite legitimate questioning. He’s saying that it is hard to understand why you vehemently defend one section of the bible, but not the areas that recieve equal condemnation, or things that we today find abhorrent, but are permissable in the Bible, such as slavery. “Religious debates” ignore this, just as you have.
      If you are playing the devil’s advocate in this case, which I sincerely hope you are, I might advise you that it only works when you’re working from the point of view of cold logic. Your post has little of this.

      Feb 25, 2011 at 1:18 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Mark

      Homosexuals need to learn how to abuse the first amendment too. Write a counter opinion on why colin is a stupidass

      Feb 25, 2011 at 1:28 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Pip

      Part of ethical journalism is responsibly editing content. Even if the article was well written, and whether or not the writer even genuinely believe what it said, its a paper’s responsibility to filter out content that’s simple not appropriate for a community. You wouldn’t allow an article to be published that advocated slavery, or that a woman’s right to vote should be stripped away. We can’t allow prejudice to be construed as mere “opinion.”

      Feb 25, 2011 at 6:01 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Kev C

      “same sex dating should be frowned upon.”


      Frowning is distracting and should be frowned upon.

      Feb 25, 2011 at 6:46 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Francis

      This is a school newspaper. We aren’t talking about someone speaking out against the government. The school newspaper is in control of what they choose to print in their newspapers and associate themselves with. Not only did they choose to associate with a kid who says gays should kill themselves, but they defend this hate speech. They aren’t required to do that, they are doing it because they don’t see an issue in it. And that is exactly what the problem is.

      Ultimately, it doesn’t matter, though. The reaction has been (to quote) “overwhelmingly negative.” This school and specifically this kid, shot themselves in the foot. Retribution has and will be coming quickly.

      Feb 25, 2011 at 8:18 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Shannon1981

      @berto: Just like Hitler and his cronies had the right to their opinions about Jews too, right? We are headed toward gay genocide ala the Holocaust if this crap isn’t stopped.

      Feb 25, 2011 at 8:49 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Soupy

      Since when were public schools institutions of democracy. If they can send a student home for wearing a controversial tshirt, why can’t they edit a high school paper? Dress codes? Undemocratic. The point is that children aren’t afforded all the rights of adults.

      Feb 25, 2011 at 10:03 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Oprah


      OK point taken. Both The Bible and the Quran has verses condoning slavery. Slavery existed through human history. From Adams immediate descendants through the Romans enslaving cocasians, to The egyptian pharaohs enslaving jews, to black slaves etc etc etc


      Homosexuality is a fundamental issue rather than a petty issue like shelfish. Homosexuality defies the logic of religious belief of multiplying humanity and therefore spreading the name of God.Not to mention,the act of homosexuality abuses our natural biological body make up.The anus is supposed to be a waste outlet, not a mexican border inlet.

      Feb 25, 2011 at 10:54 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • MikeE

      @Oprah: Actually, no, it’s not “in the bible”. it’s in the mis-TRANSLATION of the bible. there is a distinct difference.

      There is no mention of homosexuality anywhere in the bible, in any of its original languages. There are, however, words that are twisted and taken out of context, or translated to mean what they did not mean in the original language.

      Anyone (religious person who believes in this stuff) who uses the bible to condone anti-homosexual bigotry is committing a sin.

      Feb 25, 2011 at 11:24 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • MikeE

      @Oprah: and by the way, there is absolutely no difference between the “abomination” quoted as an admonition against homosexuality and that against shellfish. They are both “abominations”. there is no “degree” of abomination. you are cherry-picking your bible verses and THAT, my poor friend, is also a sin. you are bearing false witness.

      Feb 25, 2011 at 11:28 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Berto Lozano

      Shannon1981 you need to up the meds. There is no gay holocaust now or in the future. In case you haven’t looked around we’re winning the damn culture war handily. You sound as stupid and crazy as Michele Bachmann and Glenn Beck.

      Feb 25, 2011 at 7:04 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Soupy

      Dear Oprah, I think that you are in more trouble for deciding on your own interpretation of god’s words. Who are you to say that the abomination of shellfish is a petty issue? It’s weighted and worded exactly the same as every other abomination in Leviticus.

      Feb 25, 2011 at 7:41 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Phil


      In the United States, free speech _does_ protect “hate speech.” Speech restrictions must generally be content-neutral, which means that you can restrict the time, place, and manner of speech, but you can’t have separate rules based on what a speaker is trying to say.

      That’s not to say that schools don’t historically have broad discretion in terms of monitoring and regulating student behavior in the service of doing their job as a school. But most of the the comments here seem to make the point that the column was disgusting bigotry. In the U.S., you have an absolute right to be a bigot.

      Feb 26, 2011 at 4:25 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Shannon1981

      @Berto Lozano: Ok, perhaps a bit of a stretch, but still. I stand by the idea that a) Bible quotes in no way belong in a school paper and b) inciting hate and violence in a school paper against an already targeted group falls under creating a hostile environment, last I checked, and c) the principal is a homophobe and therefore unable to be representative and protective of ALL students and should be removed.

      @Phil: Yes you have a right to be a bigot, but in this context(a school) promoting these sorts of ideas are usually prohibited, and should be. Also, I guarantee you if a gay student wrote something against Christians and their Sky Wizard, it never would have made it to press. Double standard, you know.

      Feb 26, 2011 at 5:13 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • hf2hvit

      Guess he’ll be seen in the gay clubs soon

      Feb 27, 2011 at 10:40 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Rachelle

      Now heres the REAL deal. I am acctually in school with Collin Johnson at East high, and was around when the paper what published. He DOES have the right to post it, and as a Former GSA president, its just another person to brush off our shoulders and move on. By the way, our princible is acctually a really good man, and should be respected. East high is a great school no matter what anyone says.

      May 19, 2012 at 9:59 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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