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Students Say Profile On Gay Teen is Removed From Yearbook

An openly gay student at Sheridan High School speaks out after his profile feature is removed from the yearbook.
SHERIDAN, AR -- A Sheridan High School student says administrators pulled her article -- about an openly gay teenager -- from the yearbook.

After receiving a viewer tip about this story, FOX 16 decided to look into it.

The two students involved feel school administrators are taking away their freedom of expression by pulling the profile and they're hoping with more attention on this story, things will be changed.

About a year ago, Taylor Ellis used Instagram to come out, letting people know he's gay.

He said, "I just wanted people to know because my whole life was a lie."

The assistant editor of the Sheridan High School yearbook wanted to share Ellis' story too.

Hannah Bruner says it showcases the diversity at their school.

She said, "I didn't think it would be that big of a problem."

So Bruner wrote the profile on Ellis.

However, Bruner says weeks later, the principal decided to pull it from the yearbook along with five other student profiles.

Bruner said, "I'm not going to be walked on with this because it's important to me and to Taylor and to all the other students who were interviewed and the yearbook staff."

Ellis says the principal told him the profile was too personal and could cause a problem with bullying, but Ellis disagrees with that statement.
 
"But everybody knows that I'm gay so it wouldn't be any different," he said.

Both Bruner and Ellis plan to fight this decision saying the school is taking away their freedom of expression.

We did call the Sheridan Schools superintendent for comment, she never got back to us.

We went to her office as well, but the receptionist says she left early.

There is a state law protecting students freedom of expression in student publications. It's called the Arkansas Student Publications Act.

However, at this time, FOX 16 does not know exactly why the school's principal chose to remove the profile, because school officials are not returning our calls requesting interviews.

To follow Melissa Schroeder on Twitter, click here.

Here's a copy of the full profile, removed from the Sheridan High School yearbook:

"I use to be scared to say that I'm gay," Taylor Ellis, junior, said. "It's not fun keeping secrets; after I told everyone, it felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders."
Ellis's "secret" was first shared in the summer of 2012, with his friend Joelle Curry, junior, and his mother, Lynn Tiley.
"I wasn't surprised at all," Tiley said. "I don't care because he's my son, and I know he's happier."
Ellis, who said he struggles with clinical depression, had just recently stopped taking his medication before telling his family.
"I was going crazy, just wanting to tell people after I stopped taking them," Ellis said.
However, Ellis waited until spring break of 2013 to tell the rest of his peers; he did so through the social media site, Instagram.
"I put it in my bio, and hashtagged pictures," Ellis said. "When people would ask me about it, I just said 'yes I am,' and that was that."
Although the thought of coming out, and the repercussions of doing so, frightened Ellis at first, he found that most of the student body, as well as the teachers, were very accepting of him.
"I wrote about it in Mrs. Williams class; it was when I first came out," Ellis said. "She told me she was glad I shared that with her. We had a stronger bond after that, I think."
"He had poured himself into it," Summer Williams, sophomore English teacher, said. "It was one of the best ones I read. I was just so proud of his openness, and his honesty. It was a risk; sharing that with his classmates, but they were very accepting. It was good for him. I could tell he felt better after writing about it."
Ellis found that while people do not treat him with disrespect, some do seem to be more distant.
"Some guys are more reserved around me now," Ellis said. "But not a lot of people have been mean about it, thank God. I'm actually in a good situation. I'm very lucky."




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