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Sunday, June 24, 2007

More on Anti-Gay School Officials/Yearbook Photo Censors

posted by on June 24 at 9:46 AM


The New York Times has a piece today about Andre Jackson. He’s the New Jersey high school student that I wrote about yesterday. A picture of Jackson kissing his boyfriend was blacked out of East Side High’s yearbook by school officials that felt it was “illicit.” Yesterday’s story in a New Jersey paper mentioned that photos of straight students kissing made it into the yearbook, but it didn’t describe them. Well, the NYT does. Not only were the photos of straight students more explicit—excuse me, “illicit”—one was on the page facing Jackson’s picture.

The yearbook includes several photos of heterosexual couples embracing and kissing. On the page immediately opposite Mr. Jackson’s, a young man and a young woman kiss on a couch, his hand on her leg as she sits on his lap.

Yesterday school officials claimed that they were unaware that there were pictures of straight kids making out in the yearbook, as they “had only been presented” with Jackson’s picture. Hard to see how they missed that picture on the facing page. Back to the NYT:

The decision to blot out the photo was made by Marion A. Bolden, the Newark Public Schools superintendent. Ms. Bolden said that an assistant superintendent had alerted her to the picture on Thursday afternoon. I thought that the photo was suggestive, Ms. Bolden said.

Indeed it was. The photo “suggested” that gay students exist, and that’s what Ms. Bolden wanted to erase from East Side High’s yearbook. The law in New Jersey suggests—no the law states, and states emphatically—that gays and lesbians have equal rights.

Andre Jackson is planning to attend Berkeley College in the fall. It sounds to me like he’s going to have all the money he needs for tuition.

RSS icon Comments


Uh, yeah, this is the WRONG month to be anti-gay. Every homo hater should know that!

Posted by catnextdoor | June 24, 2007 10:18 AM

Hey, this exact same thing happened at my high school (Boulder High, CO) about four years ago, except it was a picture of two young lesbians removed from a page of students kissing. The faculty yearbook sponsor told them they had to get parental permission (not required for straight kissers), and once that was cheerfully given, still kept the picture out without further explanation.

That wasn't national news, though, despite the student-led protest--a "kiss-in" consisting mostly of the more open-minded student body making out in a field.

Posted by Kiru Banzai | June 24, 2007 10:37 AM

Can you cite the specific law you think applies? Most anti-descrimination laws specify a particular sphere of application, e.g. housing or employment. (Exhortatory clauses, e.g. "Whereas God created homo- and hetro-sexual equal...", would not generally be considered enforcable laws.) If the law specifies "education" as a protected sphere, that might apply, but this is about a yearbook photo, not a classroom issue, so that's pretty iffy. Only one state, Massachusetts, has ruled that its constitution requires that all state institutions treat homo- and hetero-sexuals strictly the same.

Even if there were a court case that were decided in the kid's favor, he would likely get no or almost no money. The court would require that the district change its policy, and that he be "made whole" for the costs of the descrimination. How much would that be? The price of a yearbook?

The only way this kid is going to get a bunch of cash out of this is if the school pays him to shut up and go away. Or if the gay press starts paying for interviews.

Posted by David Wright | June 24, 2007 11:22 AM

Not to defend this Bolden person in any way, but I was trying to get into her head... Is it possible she thinks the photo is "suggestive" (or thinks she can defend her decision by saying it is suggestive) because one man is behind the other, "possibly" simulating gay sex? I know that is a stretch, and I know nothing about the law, but it occurs to me that she could defend herself by saying that she misinterpreted the photo, and maybe get off that way.

But perhaps I'm giving her too much credit, assuming that her logic has some internal consistency when in fact she is just prejudiced and assumed she could get away with it.

Posted by Jude Fawley | June 24, 2007 11:36 AM

If two straight kids are kissing body to body, could be they simulating vaginal sex? MAYBE!

Posted by Gloria | June 24, 2007 11:45 AM

This type of shit makes me sick. The double standard and representation of a consistent standard is ridiculous.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | June 24, 2007 12:10 PM

Interesting: According to the NY Times article linked above, Superintendent Bolden claims that someone told her that neither of the boys in the photo were students at the school. Either she's lying or someone lied to her.

Posted by Kristi in Kitsap | June 24, 2007 1:32 PM

@7 - Here's the thing: They were on an entire PAGE of pictures chosen by Andre. Though I haven't seen the rest of the page, I find it hard to believe that there isn't just shot after shot of him on the thing, so I don't know how valid that argument could possibly be.

Posted by Justin | June 24, 2007 1:49 PM

Why does the yearbook have photos of ANYONE making out? Strikes me as inappropriate.

Posted by Joe Blow | June 24, 2007 3:11 PM

seriously! straight or gay, i don't care who or what you're kissing, but i wouldn't want it in my yearbook!

Posted by devon | June 24, 2007 3:44 PM

I'm not big on PDAs, but it is just a kiss. It's not like he was giving him a reach around.

Bolden should know better than to apply a double standard. It is two thousand fucking seven for god's sake! I bet they wish they had included "no kissing shots" on their list of prohibited pics. Right up there with "no gang signs."

Posted by Mike in MO | June 24, 2007 4:25 PM

Why doesn't he simply sue to have the whole run of yearbooks reprinted? Wouldn't that be a much better messsage?

Posted by catalina vel-duray | June 24, 2007 4:26 PM

Catalina: Because he doesn't have a contract with the school obligating them to print the yearbook with his prefered photo.

The school officials might backtrack because they believe a wrong decision was made and are genuinely repentant. The school officials might backtrack to avoid an avalanche of public excoriation. But the school officials will not backtrack because they are legally obligated to do so. Because they aren't.

Posted by David Wright | June 24, 2007 5:20 PM

David @ 13:

Doesn't he have a contract with the school? If their yearbook is anything like my high school's, what you do is you, or your parents, buy a page, or a part of a page, and fill it with whatever you want. Usually some kind of congrats message, or a montage of your life, or something cute to express who you are. You purchase that page, are given guidelines on what can and cannot be printed, what sizes, what subject matter, and beyond that it's up to you. In fact, my school had us sign an agreement saying we would abide by the rules and insisted on editorial review to make sure our pages did follow the rules.

I kind of think the school probably did have a contract of some sort, or at least a list of expected material given to the student at point of purchase. I'm not sure, but I would think a list of excluded material given at point of purchase of a page whose primary purpose is to carry material of your choosing would count as some sort of contract, no?

Posted by Phelix | June 24, 2007 7:27 PM

Phelix: Your point is well-taken. He probably does have "some sort" of a contract with the school. But I don't think its the sort that would allow him to force a re-print.

First, the agreement probably has words to the effect that the school reserves final editorial control. Second, the agreement probably expressly forbids "sexually suggestive" content; the fact that the school elected not to enforce that clause with others doesn't mean that it forfeits the right to enforce it with him. Finally, even if the school did breach the contract, the remedy would just be for them to return his consideration, i.e. the yearbook fee.

That leaves anti-discrimination laws as the only basis for a legal complaint. And I don't believe those really apply, for the reasons I outlined above. I am still waiting for Dan to cite the specific statue he believes applies, though.

Posted by David Wright | June 24, 2007 7:57 PM

I don't understand why you think they wouldn't be obligated to reprint the book. They took a magic marker to the photo while the kids watched and lined up waiting for the books to be distributed. According to the updated story, all of the described much more explicit/suggestive heterosexual photos were allowed to remain in the book untouched. No other photo but this one was deemed too "illicit". Really the only way to fix this is to reprint the book. It solves all their problems. The kid will be less likely to sue and the offended parents (however ignorant) will eventually bow believing the district at least tried to do the "right" thing. Me, I hope the kid sues, because unless you hit them where it hurts, there's no reason to "do the right thing" the next time.

Posted by emmarie | June 25, 2007 2:04 AM
Posted by non-jewish atheist | June 25, 2007 2:06 AM

This kiss was a smart move. These guys being demonstrably homosexual will never have to fight in Dan Savage's glorious war in Iraq.

Posted by Smartie | June 25, 2007 9:18 AM

A picture of two dudes kissing is disgusting. Period.

Call it whatever you want - anti-gay, discriminatory, whatever. Most people, and I'm thinking upwards of 80% of Americans, have an instinct to gag when they see two dudes kissing.

I think you queer Seattle fuckers are a bit out of touch with what the general consensus around the country is.

Posted by The Devil | June 25, 2007 10:22 AM

Devil - you're wrong, every step of the way. Why do you hate America?

Posted by Dono | June 25, 2007 10:47 AM

I'm sure that Dan really appreciates your compliments to the populace of Seattle, Devil.

And I'm curious. Who initiated the nationwide poll that showed that "80& of Americans have an instinct to gag whenever they see two dudes kissing"?

I know I sure don't gag... and several of my girl friends kind of get off on it.

Posted by Clay | June 25, 2007 10:51 AM

How the hell should I know what 80% of Americans think about dudes kissing? I just enjoy spewing generalized remarks back at Discriminating Dan.

Personally, I like all forms of PDA as long as they don't involve household pets, but even then I'm not all that bothered.

But you Seattle fuckers are still a little out of your tree. Seriously.

Posted by The Devil | June 25, 2007 11:12 AM

In a single American Hospital for war wounded today, more than 800 of the patients have lost an arm, a leg, fingers or toes. More than 100 are blind. Dozens need tubes and machines to keep them alive. Hundreds are disfigured by burns, and thousands have brain injuries and mangled minds.

These are America's war wounded, a toll that has received less attention than the 3,500 troops killed in Iraq. Depending on how you count them, they number between 35,000 and 53,000.

Posted by dipshitbushlover | June 25, 2007 11:23 AM

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