4:44 pm - 11/29/2012

Michigan School Suspends Teacher For Playing 'Same Love' by Macklemore and Lewis

South Lyon Centennial Middle School teacher Sue Johnson was suspended for three days last Wednesday after presenting a YouTube clip of the hip-hop song "Same Love" by underground rapper Macklemore, which discusses struggles faced by gay individuals.

During her eighth grade performing arts class, Johnson selected a musical piece and facilitated a class discussion about it. She got the idea from an in-service training that encouraged teachers to start their classes with music.

Johnson told Between The Lines that a student approached her and asked if she could play Macklemore's "Same Love" music video for the class.

"I asked him if there were any swear words, any violence. He told me "no" and I said we could go ahead," Johnson said. "The little boy who brought it was so engaged. One boy raised his hand and said he had an uncle who was gay. Another girl said her aunts were."

Johnson told the students that she knew someone who was gay too. "One of my friends whose brother was gay went to Miami Beach. He and his friend went to dinner and a couple clubs, and he was attacked — and he died. I told them nobody should have hate like that for each other.

"We talked about what 'Same Love' means. We talked about social justice. We talked about how the Constitution says we are all created equal, but can all people use our Constitution equally?"

At about 1:45 p.m. she was called into the office and sent home with instructions to come to the school board meeting the following Wednesday, but not to return until then. Johnson learned that a student had left the classroom to complain to the principal about the video being "offensive."

"The Principal had the lyrics of the song up on a screen and had me bring in my union representative," she said.

South Lyon Schools would not discuss the private conversation; however, Johnson listed the concerns the Principal had with the video:

  1. The word "faggot." Johnson said the principal told her that the "f" word is akin to the "n" word and should not be used in school.

  2. The word "damn."

  3. Religious issues. The song talks about the difference between God's love and a church that preaches hate.

  4. Politics. The video encourages legalization of gay marriage, and the lyrics speak about "right-wing conservatives."

  5. The concern that the video and the discussion did not pertain to the performance art curriculum and that the topic might better be handled in social studies or health.

  6. That Johnson showed the video without first screening it herself or following the district's procedure of getting videos approved before playing them.

Johnson did not share these concerns, and told the school officials that she "did nothing wrong."

"These are eighth grade kids; these aren't words they haven't heard before," she said. "I said (to the administrators) that I never brought up politics or religion."

The 56-year-old teacher, who has been with the district 17 years, was put on administrative leave - suspended - for three days, two of which were unpaid.

Assistant Superintendent Melissa Baker said that the concern is over the playing of videos without approval.

"While the District generally does not discuss employee issues with the media, misinformation about this issue must be addressed. The District has an established practice (included in the Staff Handbook) that requires the instructor to first preview any taped material to be used in the classroom (including YouTube clips), then submit a completed form about the proposed clip to a building administrator for approval.

"Further, the instructor is to identify the curriculum benchmarks that students will complete as a result of watching the clip," Baker said.

Baker added that Johnson neither previewed the YouTube Clip, nor submitted the necessary paperwork for approval. "The clip had no relationship whatsoever to the instructional class content planned for that day. The purpose of this established practice is to ensure that instructional materials are appropriate for the course and its students. It is because we care about all students that we have this procedure in place."

"While we are still investigating this incident, it appears that the South Lyon Community School District is taking a stance against diversity and love," says Equality Michigan Director of Policy Emily Dievendorf in a written statement..

"Suspending a teacher for playing a song with lyrics like 'love is kind' and 'if I was gay, I would think hip-hop hates me' says more about the school district's intolerance towards same-sex love than the teacher's judgment of her student's music tastes. I cannot help but wonder if they would have suspended her for playing a song that speaks positively of opposite-sex love or provides observations on the oppression faced by certain religions.

"Equality Michigan is eager and ready to help fight this behavior by South Lyon schools and make sure Susan Johnson is able to teach diversity and love over intolerance and hate."

Johnson provided Fox 2 News with a letter from the District, which included a list of the topics they felt made the "Same Love" video inappropriate: homosexuality, religion, politics, and language. Johnson has been allowed to return to work, but could not be reached for further comment.

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis on Ellen in October

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superdogbiter 30th-Nov-2012 12:13 am (UTC)
what a bunch of douchebags
_xxtom 30th-Nov-2012 12:14 am (UTC)
Michigan is rank as hell
onyxobsidian 30th-Nov-2012 12:16 am (UTC)
Let's get rid of it. I've always wanted one, big huge super giant great lake. And then lil Lake Ontatio over there.
giggleplz 30th-Nov-2012 12:27 am (UTC)
negl a lot of parts of michigan are cesspools for cray conservatives.
piratesswoop 30th-Nov-2012 01:09 am (UTC)
mte, muck fichigan tbh
elvenqueen86 30th-Nov-2012 01:33 am (UTC)
Aaw, Michigan isn't so bad. It's just the people in it that suck.
verystefunny 30th-Nov-2012 02:11 am (UTC)
yep. i feel like a lot of them would fit in better in florida but they have it bad enough down there.
schexyschteve 30th-Nov-2012 03:25 am (UTC)
Thank you. Some parts and people of Michigan are pretty awesome, like anywhere else in this country
euterpe_xx 30th-Nov-2012 02:02 am (UTC)
I live in michigan. south lyon is less than an hour away from me.

...indeed, it is rank.
onyxobsidian 30th-Nov-2012 12:14 am (UTC)
pimentoplane 30th-Nov-2012 02:21 am (UTC)
she is such a qt
calinewarkwc69 30th-Nov-2012 12:15 am (UTC)

This makes me pissed on so many levels. Good teachers are hard enough to come across, they're already not getting pay & benefits they deserve, and now they're being sent home because they allowed a STUDENT to try and teach other STUDENTS about equality & tolerance?

I am writing a fucking letter to this school. This blasphemy...
onyxobsidian 30th-Nov-2012 12:17 am (UTC)

Umm err uhhh it had the word 'faggot'!

Yeah, let's forget about context completely here.
calinewarkwc69 30th-Nov-2012 12:20 am (UTC)
I know. If parents aren't doing it, and teachers can't because of fuckery like this, then where else are kids supposed to learn what is right and wrong to say if not from their peers? We should be encouraging schools to have open discussions about slurs with it's students so that they learn early what words, and why, are offensive...

But no, fuck honest and open education, let's send home teachers without pay who probably can't afford it. jfc...
eomir 30th-Nov-2012 12:36 am (UTC)
Right? I guarantee those students have heard and maybe used the word faggot in the hallways of that school and I'm sure none of them have gotten in trouble for it but a teacher tries to have a discussion about this and other issues they need to learn about and gets suspended. Makes total sense to me. O.o
dirkismyhomeboy 30th-Nov-2012 12:17 am (UTC)
The student who was offended should have asked to go sit out in the hallway while the others participated. That's what we did when I was in high school.
turi 30th-Nov-2012 12:24 am (UTC)
Melissa Bakers email address is bakerm@slcs.us.

The email addresses of the superintendent as well as all school board members can be found here:
howenchanting 30th-Nov-2012 12:41 am (UTC)
I just wrote a letter to Ms. Baker expressing my disappointment at the school districts action.

My favorite part of the email was the closing:
"I am appalled at your handling of this situation, Ms. Baker. The action of your small school district has spoken very loudly about South Lyon's stance on justice and peace for all. It saddens me that in an age so rich with technology and information, that South Lyon continues to remain in a state of ignorance, perpetuating hate and injustice. "
pineandapple 30th-Nov-2012 12:50 am (UTC)
This reminds me of my high school experience with teachers who had very shady views on homosexuality. We had to have at least one hour with each teacher to study sexuality and the risks of having unsafe sex. I can't even explain how horrified I was with my class and the teachers.
- One said that it's an addiction, just like alcohol and cigarrettes. I'm not gay, yet I wanted to punch him in the face anyway.
- When someone commented that you can look at someone and tell that they're gay, another one of my teachers laughed, just like he did when someone said that once you sleep with someone of the same gender, that person is homosexual forever (this person's excuse was "once a liar, always a liar", therefore "sleep once with a man/woman, forever gay").

Just felt like sharing my tramautic, bigoted high school experience. Granted, I grew up in a small town, but that's no excuse.

Edited at 2012-11-30 12:51 am (UTC)
lovefifteen 30th-Nov-2012 02:20 am (UTC)
seriously...this is why tenure exists, so teachers aren't subject to the whims of students
idreaminargyle 30th-Nov-2012 12:15 am (UTC)

just, no words for this fuckery
bbgood 30th-Nov-2012 12:15 am (UTC)
i was actually in the backyard party scene for this music video! macklemore is such a great fucking guy... i'll never forget when he performed at my frat, craziest night ever
handsdowntoo 30th-Nov-2012 12:17 am (UTC)
This is moronic. I bet that school doesn't even suspend students who call others faggot but a song talking about how its a cruel thing to say is somehow an issue.
magicpebble 30th-Nov-2012 12:17 am (UTC)
The District has an established practice (included in the Staff Handbook) that requires the instructor to first preview any taped material to be used in the classroom (including YouTube clips), then submit a completed form about the proposed clip to a building administrator for approval.

Yeah, somehow I doubt she was suspended for not filling out a form.
sketchypie 30th-Nov-2012 12:46 am (UTC)
Right? Like, I want this district to show the receipts of every single other video a teacher has ever played before they use that as their excuse.
2bhllywdornt2b 30th-Nov-2012 12:18 am (UTC)
yesss I love when shit like this happens and then the shit hits the fan and the media goes crazy..
elksa 30th-Nov-2012 12:18 am (UTC)
The only point I agree with is that she should have viewed the video herself before showing it in class.

But I mean...seriously. Everything else is ridiculous bs. It's so important for kids that age to be having discussions about issues like that, and now a message has been sent to other teachers not to do something similar.
calinewarkwc69 30th-Nov-2012 12:24 am (UTC)
"It's so important for kids that age to be having discussions about issues like that"

YES! Yes! YES! Yes!

also, I love your icon

awkwardmumbles 30th-Nov-2012 12:21 am (UTC)
1. this is total bullshit

2.thriftshop is my JAMMMM rn
nikkyc2001 30th-Nov-2012 01:07 am (UTC)
I never get tired of Thriftshop

"Damn, that's a cold ass honkey"
cityxpretty 30th-Nov-2012 12:24 am (UTC)
The only issue on that list is number 1. It doesn't sound like it's advocating for a specific religion. She maybe should have watched it before showing it, but I'm sure many music videos and clips have been played in classes without being previewed. And concern about it not being relevant enough to the lecture? That happens every day in most classes.

Michigan don't disappoint me. :(
ex_vampirew765 30th-Nov-2012 12:25 am (UTC)
this world
poetic_daze 30th-Nov-2012 12:25 am (UTC)
ugh depressing...
thishollywood 30th-Nov-2012 12:26 am (UTC)
Lawd dis teacher was suspended bc they didn't follow procedure.

Le gasp!!!

Literally Idk why ppl want to b teachers these days. I think administrative bullshit wuld suck ne kind of fun or meaningfulness out of it
tink_1326 30th-Nov-2012 12:40 am (UTC)
it does
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