- The Washington Times - Monday, August 14, 2017

A Missouri school district has apologized after quotes from two openly gay students were censored from their high school yearbook.

Joey Slivinski and Thomas Swartz, two newly graduated students from Kearney High School, said they had submitted senior quotes to appear in the 2017 yearbook, but the school scrubbed them from the final print without notice.

“Mine was, ‘Of course I dress well. I didn’t spend all that time in the closet for nothing,’” Mr. Slivinski told a local CBS affiliate. “I went to find my quote in the yearbook, but nothing was there.”

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Mr. Swartz said his quote was, “If Harry Potter taught us anything, it’s that no one should have to live in the closet.”

“It was a blank picture under my name,” Mr. Swartz told CBS.

The Kearney School District apologized for removing the quotes, saying its policy is to censor messages that “could potentially offend,” but admitted it made an error in this case.

“Each year, graduating seniors are provided an opportunity to pick a favorite quote to be placed in the yearbook,” read a joint statement by Principal Dave Schwarzenbach and KSD Superintendent Bill Nicely. “In an effort to protect our students, quotes that could potentially offend another student or groups of students are not published. It is the school’s practice to err on the side of caution. Doing so in this case had the unintentional consequence of offending the very students the practice was designed to protect.

“We sincerely apologize to those students,” the statement said. “All KSD staff understand the importance of inclusion and acceptance especially in an educational setting. We work diligently to help every student feel safe, supported, and included. District staff participate in ongoing training around issues of diversity and support student organizations that do the same. That being said, we acknowledge our mistake and will use it as a learning opportunity to improve in the future.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Swartz and Mr. Slivinski said they plan to type up stickers with their quotes so that friends can insert their words into the yearbook.

“I’m proud to be from Kearney and I’m proud to be who I am,” Mr. Slivinski said. “I’m just disappointed at what happened.”

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