Show of support for Michigan teacher suspended for playing song - My29 WFTC Minneapolis-St. Paul

Show of support for South Lyon teacher suspended for playing song

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By Taryn Asher
Fox 2 News


SOUTH LYON, Mich. (WJBK) -- A South Lyon teacher was punished for playing a song in class called "Same Love" about equality, gay stereotypes and hate.  Monday, a large group upset with the district's decision showed up at a school board meeting.

"99.6 percent of the teachers in this district know how to read and follow a policy, and we had one rogue teacher and South Lyon is a bad community?  That just ticks me off to no end," South Lyon School Board member Don Beagle said at the meeting.

Tempers flared.  Members feeling unfairly attacked, calling Susan Johnson's suspension a matter of procedure.  Concern residents and former students spoke out, feeling the drastic move to suspend shows much more than that.

Adrienne McDonald presented the board with a letter supported with 178 signatures from alum, who were disgusted with the district's decision.

"It was mentioned that the song that Ms. Johnson played was controversial and that was why it shouldn't be entered into the classroom.  In education, many things are controversial," McDonald told the board.

"I'm just infuriated about the board's attitude.  They're blaming it on media. They're blaming it on everybody but themselves.  They reacted wrongly.  They reacted irrationally.  They reacted badly, and they're afraid to say they're sorry," says South Lyon parent Nancy Prenna.

After the incident, the school district issued a statement that said Johnson was suspended because she didn't follow guidelines -- filling out the proper forms and getting permission to play the song in school -- reiterated at the board meeting.

"If she would've followed the process and was approved by administration, an approved material to show in class, it could have been shown in class," said school board member Greg Downey.

But in the letter that school official gave Johnson, they specifically cited her allowance of the controversial content in class -- the gay slur, religious and political views.

This is what Johnson claims she was told by the principal even if she did fill out the proper forms.

"When I actually asked them when the form comes through next week and it has this song on it, are you going to approve it?  And Derrek said, 'No, I would not approve it.'"

The board calls it procedural, but one concerned resident felt it was anything but when Johnson was suspended before the day was done.

"What happened in the way of researching the issue before the decision was made to suspend, and what happened with facts that reversed that decision?"

Because without any explanation, the school district has decided to reinstate Johnson's pay it initially took away.  The performing arts teacher is now back to work. Her focus is on her students, she says, and the positive she hopes will come from this.

"It's amazing how many people have come out and said thank you."

The rapper and the writer of the song calls the teacher's suspension unjust and unfair, saying it's discouraging that a song about love and civil rights would lead to something like this.

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