Two gay high school students whose quotes were removed from their senior yearbook say they’re “disheartened and angry” by the “senseless censorship” behind the move.
Joey Slivinski and Thomas Swartz, who recently graduated from Kearney High School in Missouri, told KCTV they submitted their senior quotes for the yearbook on time just like their other classmates — only to realize that something was amiss when they cracked open the keepsake.
Without warning, school district officials had scrubbed their quotes out of concern that they could “potentially offend” other students.
“Of course I dress well, I didn’t spend all that time in the closet for nothing,” Slivinski’s original quote read.
Swartz, meanwhile, had submitted this: “If Harry Potter taught us anything, it’s that no one should have to live in the closet.”
Slivinki, in a Facebook post last week, said he had always felt that his sexual orientation was respected in his community until his quotes were scrubbed.
“I put a very innocent quote as my senior quote and they took it away from me with absolutely no warning or option to change it,” Slivinski wrote, adding, “Our schools are supposed to be a place that you can express being who you are.”
Swartz said in a Facebook post that he didn’t need to be “protected from small minded people” and that he came out to his parents when he was 15 years old.
“The only people I need protection from are the people directly involved with deleting my statement and infringing upon my civil rights,” Swartz wrote last week.
District officials said they were trying to “protect” students by removing the quotes but acknowledged their “mistake” in offending another group of students.
“In an effort to protect our students, quotes that could potentially offend another student or groups of students are not published,” the statement read. “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.”
The district’s statement also noted the “importance of inclusion and acceptance,” particularly in an educational setting.
“We work diligently to help every student feel safe, supported, and included,” the statement continued. “District staff participate 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.”
Slivinski and Swartz told KCTV they plan to make stickers to insert their quotes back into their yearbooks as well as those of their friends.
“I’m proud to be from Kearney and I’m proud to be whom I am,” Slivinski told the station. “I’m just disappointed at what happened.”