Call for Police Investigation After Gay Student Publishes Story

A school board member in Tennessee is calling for a police investigation after a yearbook published one gay student’s story.

Van Shaver wrote on his blog that James Yoakley, a journalism teacher who has worked at Lenoir City High School, near Knoxville, for eleven years, should be fired after an article about gay student Zac Mitchell was published in the school’s yearbook. Shaver demanded “a full and open investigation by school administrators and law enforcement into this issue and to hold accountable any and all those who had a hand in this despicable act.”

Although Shaver is a board member for the adjacent Loudon County Schools, Knox News reports that petitions are being circulated that Mitchell should be denied the right to attend graduation and that he has received threats and that students are being urged to tear the page with Mitchell’s story from their yearbook as a sign of protest during graduation.

Knox News says that Shaver’s demands are the subject of furious debate on local blogs and quotes Lenoir City High School Principal Steve Millsaps saying that he has been deluged with pro and anti Mitchell emails.

The 17-year-old student who wrote the article about Mitchell said she was afraid to have her name published.

“There have been threats made starting with, ‘If I found out who wrote the story,’” she said.

The article about Mitchell is about his coming out and his family’s acceptance:

“There will always be people who bully me for being gay, but I don’t care,” Mitchell says. “It doesn’t affect me and it never has. That’s probably why they keep doing it. As a person who is all about love and peace, I know that you can’t be fully or tryly happy until you are confident in who you are.”

“I didn’t think it was a big deal to be who you are because that’s what they always told you to be who you are in school. So when they asked me, I told them that I knew I was gay when I was three years old,” Mitchell told local TV news.

Mitchell said he had received messages from parents, “like how could you do this to our school? You’re such a shame.”

In February, after protests from some local Christian groups, the school newspaper refused to publish a column entitled “No Rights: The Life of an Atheist” in which Lenoir City High School honors student Krystal Myers explained that she feels Christians are allowed special rights at the school while atheists are not.

Tennessee’s infamous “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which bans all mention of sexuality except heterosexuality in K-8, is likely dead for this session after the bill’s House sponsor decided to pull the legislation on Sunday before it could proceed to a vote.

Related stories:

‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill Dead (For Now)

Dan Savage Says Bible is Pro-Slavery, Right Goes Ballistic

Teen Suicides Due to Bad Parenting, Says TN Lawmaker

Image source: Lenoir City High School yearbook scan by Van Shaven


Annmari Lundin
Annmari Lundin5 years ago

Loretta C. Sorry, don't understand your ramblings. There are so many misspelled words that I just don't understand your intentions.

Annmari Lundin
Annmari Lundin5 years ago

Why am I not surprised it happened in Tennessee? The state with seven different last names and only one DNA. (Apologizing to all liberals in Tennesse!)
The only despicable act involved in this case is the demand of firing someone that made it possible for a student to share his story and for the people that harass and bully those that teach as they should. Also, to deny someone publication of an article they don't like the subject of, sound to be a direct attack on freedom of speech. I thought it was protected in the Constitution, but I guess I'm mistaken. Tennesse probably still uses the Confederate variety!

Jennifer P.
Jennifer P5 years ago

The despicable act here is that people are bringing their religion into a public high school yearbook, and into the graduation ceremony. Why on earth are the police involved? Unless it's to stop the threats against the writer and the student the article was about? Sometimes, I wish these articles were longer, and gave more background.

Donna B.
Donna B5 years ago

You have got to be kidding me. Calling for a police investigation?? For what?? Guess these people never leave the hills. Being gay is a "Despicable Act?!" I just can't beleive this stuff. I feel sorry for people here who are trying to lead some real lives. What a joke.

Jennifer C.
Past Member 5 years ago


Kimberlee W.
Kimberlee W5 years ago

Loretta C. - I'm sorry if this offends you but I'm calling you out as a liar.
Baptists and the so-called Church of Christ RUN that state and you know it!

Christians harassed and abused? ? ? Horseshit! I was fired from at least 3 jobs when my employer found out I wasn't church-going and in the faith. My ex's parents treated me with outward contempt when I told them I went to Lutheran churches on occasion when I felt the need.
I had people I worked with actually tell me to my face that I seemed nice and they'd like to befriend me, but with my beliefs, they were sorry, but I was going to Hell and they had no desire to be near me or comfort me. These people, by and large, are sick and cruel.

How about that town in Cocke County where there was a street sign warning for years on the back before being painted over 2 decade hence? You know the one that states very clearly,
Yeah, very enlightened!

And not to mention that your post wasn't checked to see if it even made sense. Try some words next time. Oh, and it's "rights", not "write". Duh.

Sandi C.
Sandi C5 years ago


P B.
P B5 years ago

How can it be made clear to Christians in places like Tennessee that religion cannot be part of publicly-funded programs, particularly programs funded with Federal dollars like education and healthcare, regardless whether Christians are the voting majority in a jurisdiction? And that this is not a violation of their rights, nor a war on their faith or whatever, it's the constitutional protection for everyone. Freedom to practice one's religion by the same token gives everyone the freedom from others' religions as well -- would Baptists be happy to follow Roman Catholic theology if they lived in a place where Roman Catholics held the voting majority? That sword cuts both ways, which is why public institutions are constitutionally secular.

Beware false prophets, seems they're all over the place these days conning well-meaning folks into enacting hateful ungodly things.

Jen Matheson
Past Member 5 years ago

Kandy, thank you for pointing out the links to the article. I'm going to go read it, regardless of the Conservitave nonesense.
Eva: So should all gay or bisexual students be taught at home>

Ernie Miller
william Miller5 years ago

wow what a shame that Students are not allowed to grow up as who they are and who they want to be.