Sophomore Jordan Ellis
Sophomore Jordan Ellis

The fight for equality is not over

The student handbook for the Scott County Central High School in Sikeston, Missouri, has a line in it regarding prom that says “students will be permitted to invite one guest, girls invite boys and boys invite girls.” Stacy Dawson, an openly gay senior at the school, was told he could take his boyfriend to prom only after he threatened legal action. It sure is nice that same-sex couples here don’t have to file a lawsuit in order to be treated equally. In fact, the high school’s administration does not appear to have to think twice before giving the answer “of course a same-sex couple can go to prom.”

A few weeks ago during our monthly idea session, one of our staff brought up the question of how the high school’s administration would react to a same-sex couple going to prom together. Associate principal Jerry Stratton, who was sitting in on the class, was quick to say that it would be perfectly fine.

Stratton said that same-sex couples have gone to school dances in the past and that it has never been a problem as long as he has been working here. He also said that even if it were an issue, there would be no way of knowing who actually was a couple and who was just friends. “If two people are dancing together on the dance floor does that mean they are a same-sex couple?” he said.  “I don’t try to interpret that as are they a couple or are they not a couple.”

The next thing people might see as an issue regarding gay students and school dances is boys wishing to come in a dress and girls wishing to come in a tux. The administration is supportive of this as well.

While the administration is completely accepting of gay students, the student body needs to catch up, especially at the middle school. Sophomore Jordan Ellis is openly gay and feels that the difference between the high school and middle school is that of night and day.

“I was wearing skinny jeans over there [at the middle school] and got called [the f-word],” he said. “Over here, I started off the year wearing skinny jeans. I wore my white ones, and my pink ones, and my black ones, and no one said anything. So then I wore fuzzy boots and no one said anything. I was like thank God it’s finally over.”

While Ellis has yet to experience a big conflict at the high school, bullying does continue to happen. “Yes, I deal with harassment and bullying, but that’s going to happen anywhere,” he said. “You can’t stop that no matter where you’re at. You can be in a private school full of gay people and there is still going to be bullying.” It may be that it is going to happen anywhere, but that doesn’t mean it should.

And just because someone doesn’t say something directly to another person’s face doesn’t mean they aren’t being a bully. Talking behind someone’s back, which includes tweets or Facebook posts, can be even more hurtful. And talking behind peoples’ backs seem to be high school students’ speciality. This is not to say that every student is guilty of this, but it certainly does not mean that everyone is innocent.

The fight for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) rights still has a long way to go. In our nation, in our state, and especially in Johnston, where the conservative, upper-class stereotype seems to shine through. However, at the high school, administration seem to be moving in the right direction. It is time for high school and middle school students to do the same.

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