Michigan teacher suspended for playing song that promotes tolerance

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Rapper Ben Maclemore

A Detroit-area middle school teacher says she’s been suspended for playing a song about being gay during class.

According to Susan Johnson, the principal and assistant superintendent delivered the news to her last week after a student complained that she’d played the song "Same Love" in support of same-sex marriage, to her eighth-grade performing arts class at Centennial Middle School in South Lyon.

In the song, rapper Ben Maclemore addresses the dangers of hate and stereotypes by showing the struggles of a gay man from birth to death.  The song features the refrain, “I can’t change, even if I wanted to.”

Johnson said she thought the song was something her students could learn from.

“This is one of the things in my school that we’re trying to practice and we're trying to instill in our students is tolerance to diversity,” she told WJBK-TV.

But a student in class didn’t agree with the lyrics and complained to the principal’s office.  Before the school day ended, Johnson claims the principal and assistant superintendent told her she was suspended.

“I don’t think that it was really even thought through,” she said. “I was paralyzed.  I really didn't understand why I was being suspended.”

Johnson said she was told her suspension would last three days and she wouldn’t be paid for two. She said administrators told her she should have sought permission to play the song.

South Lyon Community School District Assistant Superintendent Melissa Baker declined to comment when reached by the station. The Associated Press left a message for Baker yesterday, but it also went unreturned.

A recent poll showed that a majority of people in Michigan support recognition for same-sex. But the state is also home to one of the nation’s most influential  anti-gay groups and boasts the second largest number of right-wing militia groups in the nation.