Community reacts to principal’s banning of gay column

ILLINOIS — Thecensorship of a gay high school student’s column urging others to come outwas met with mixed reactions in a ”conservative” Chicagosuburb.

The principal of Wheaton-Warrenville South High School saidthe content of the column was acceptable but the personal tone of the columnraised red flags.

The faculty adviser ofThe Pride, the student newspaper, saidshe hopes administrators are not expecting future taboo topics to be replaced byfluff.

The author of the column said he is done with the wholeordeal, which happened months ago.

But a local gay rights group ispursuing the issue in hopes of getting the school board to bemore understanding of gay issues.

In September of 2005, StephenDelaney wrote a column called ”The importance of coming out,” inwhich he told the story of his own coming out and how, to his surprise, the townhe called ”conservative” was accepting of hislifestyle.

”While Wheaton is considered to be ratherconservative and Christian, I have to say that I still found my friends to bethe most accepting and loving group one could ask for,” he wrote in thecolumn. ”My main objective of this article is to urge other homosexuals tocome out. Even if it is just to one friend, letting that huge secret out is sucha relief.”

Prior to publication, Principal Dawn Snyder becameaware of the column and required that certain changes be made. Snyder said thiswas the first time she censored the student newspaper. Snyder said the gay themeof the article was not the problem — it was the manner in which the columnwas written, which she described as being a letter to anotherperson.

”The content of the article is certainly acceptable tohave in a school newspaper,” Snyder said. ”The content was not theproblem; it was how it was written.”

Delaney disagreed.

”I didn’t write it as a letter,” he said.”It was censored based on content.”

Newspaper adviserMegan Patak said she does not buy Snyder’s explanation either and believesthe article was censored because of the controversial topic.

Pataksaid Snyder told her the column could run if several changes were made,including ”softening the blow” delivered in the lede when Delaneyannounces he is gay. Also, Snyder said the principal requested omitting the lastsentence of the article that announced National Coming Out Day wasapproaching.

Delaney said after the changes were made, Snyderinformed the newspaper staff that the article would still not be suitable torun. She wanted the column to be a neutral article about homosexuality, Delaneysaid.

”That wasn’t something I wanted to do,” hesaid. ”I didn’t want to make it a historical article or give thecons of [being gay].”

Instead, a local paper,The Daily Herald, caught wind of thecontroversy and ran an article called ”A call to come out quashed,”along with Delaney’s column, on Nov. 23.

Delaney said he hashad nothing but positive feedback after the article ran, but he has no plans topush to have the article or a similar article published in the studentnewspaper.

The Pridepublished an editorial about ”Dr. Snyder’s hypocriticaldecision” as well as a feature on Wheaton-Warrenville’s Gay-StraightAlliance club in their October issue. At the bottom of the page, an empty graybox appeared with the boldface heading ”The article that was intended tobe placed here has been censored.”

Parents, Families andFriends of Lesbians and Gays in DuPage, Ill., sent school board members a letterexpressing their disagreement with the principal’s decision not to runDelaney’s column. They defended Delaney’s column and wrote,”This type of brave honesty is to be respected, notcensored.”

The organization offered to bring the board a panelpresentation in order to give the school board members ”the opportunity tobecome better informed as to the innumerable aspects of this subject in orderthat they may make more informed decisions in thefuture.”

Snyder said the board was not involved in the decisionnot to run Delaney’s column.

Attempts to contact thesuperintendent and board members were unsuccessful. A district spokespersonreplied to an e-mail declining comment, saying ”At this time, we prefernot continue the discussion on this matter since it is a local issue thatoccurred several months ago.”

by Emily Walker, SPLC staffwriter