When two openly gay students at Kearney High in Missouri flipped through their yearbooks to their photos, rather than finding the inspirational quotes they’d chosen to go below their pictures, there was nothing but blank space because school officials removed the pro-gay quotes out of concern that other students could be offended, according to KCTV.
Students Joey Slivinski and Thomas Swartz chose quotes they felt were inspiring and also funny, but the school didn’t see it that way.
“Of course I dress well. I didn’t spend all that time in the closet for nothing,” read Slivinski’s quote while Swartz’s read, “If Harry Potter taught us anything, it’s that no one should have to live in the closet.”
The school has since apologized for removing the quotes but it doesn’t change the fact that the young men have blank spaces under their photos in the yearbook.
The school district addressed the removal of the innocuous quotes in a statement saying that the school typically errs on the side of caution regarding yearbook quotes but realized in hindsight that removing Slivinski’s and Swartz’s quotes went too far. A note from Kearney High Principal Dave Schwarzenbach and school Superintendent Dr. Bill Nicely read:
District administrators were made aware of concerns regarding the removal of senior quotes from the school yearbook. Each year, graduating seniors are provided an opportunity to pick a favorite quote to be placed in the yearbook. In an effort to protect our students, quotes that could potentially offend another student or groups of students are not published. It is the school’s practice to err on the side of caution. Doing so, in this case, had the unintentional consequence of offending the very students the practice was designed to protect. We sincerely apologize to those students. All KSD staff understand the importance of inclusion and acceptance, especially in an educational setting. We work diligently to help every student feel safe, supported, and included. District staff participates in ongoing training around issues of diversity and support student organizations that do the same. That being said, we acknowledge our mistake and will use it as a learning opportunity to improve in the future.
While Slivinski and Swartz told KCTV that they were disappointed officials removed the quotes, they planned to turn the situation around by making stickers with their quotes on them to be placed in students’ yearbooks.
Watch the news report below.