Thursday, January 13, 2011

14-year-old boy acclaimed for 'awe-inspiring' speech in defence of gay rights teacher

Graeme Taylor pleaded with the board of Howell High School in New Jersey, US, to overturn Jay McDowell’s suspension and said his actions had been “amazing”.

Mr McDowell disciplined two boys for saying homosexuality was “against their religion” on October 20.

He was suspended from his job after pupils claimed he became irate, slammed doors and shouted at the two boys. Mr McDowell is also accused of provoking the incident by asking the first student if he accepted homosexuals.

But Graeme asked school board officials to reinstate Mr McDowell, whom he said had stood up against the sort of prejudice that had driven him to make a suicide attempt at the age of nine.

He warned of a “silent holocaust” against homosexuals, around six million of whom commit suicide every year around the world.

“I myself am gay and I’m a young person, and that causes a lot of trouble,” he said.

“And when I hear things like Dr King’s speech in which he says he hopes his grandchildren will be judged not on the colour of their skin but the content of their character; I hope that one day we too can be judged on the content of our character.”

The 14-year-old added: “[Mr McDowell] did an amazing thing. He said something that inspired a lot of people, and whenever I have a teacher who stands up for me like that they change in my eyes.”

Graeme’s speech, described as “incredibly articulate and inspiring” by the influential Gawker blog, made headlines in the US and the teenager was interviewed with Mr McDowell on the MSNBC channel. The showbusiness blogger Perez Hilton said the speech had "brought tears to my eyes".

The incident, and the surrounding media attention, prompted the school district to hold a meeting Monday night to discuss ways it can promote diversity and respect for the opinions of all students and teachers.

Graeme will appear as a guest on the Ellen DeGeneres show on Monday, along with the singer and actor Justin Timberlake.

An advert on the show’s website says: "Last week, an incredible 14-year-old named Graeme Taylor gave an inspirational speech defending his teacher for stopping gay bullying. Today he's here to tell Ellen what motivated him to do it."

View the original article here

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