(Photo: Reuters/Eric Thayer)
A social studies teacher at a North Carolina middle school was recently suspended for three days after showing her eighth grade students a rap-oriented music video for a song supporting same-sex marriage.
Although the teacher's name has not been released, Alexander County Schools Associate Superintendent Jeff Peal said in a recent statement that she had been suspended due to the "inappropriate video."
"At West Alexander Middle School, there was an inappropriate video shown in class, outside the bounds of the curriculum that called for disciplinary action last week." Peal told the Taylorsville Times. "That teacher will be back in school this week."
Additionally, Alexander County school board attorney Joel Harbinson told CNN on Thursday: "The issue in this matter was one of whether the video was curriculum-based, educationally-related, and age-appropriate for a class of prepubescent 13-year-olds."
"We look forward to the teacher being a valuable member of our school system for years to come as we continue our commitment to provide the best possible education to all of our students as well as to treat each of them with compassion and understanding," Harbinson added.
The social studies teacher reportedly showed the music video for the song "Same Love," the fourth single released by Seattle-based rapper Macklemore and produced by Ryan Lewis. The song's lyrics voice the support of legalizing same-sex marriage, and it was recorded during Washington state's campaign for Referendum 74 that legalized same-sex marriage in the state in 2012.
The seven-minute music video spans decades as it follows a same-sex couple through their life, from their first meeting until old age, ending with the couple in a hospital room as one of the partners lays motionless on a hospital bed. The video also shows the couple's engagement and marriage, as well as a kiss between the two men. The clip's description provides a link to a website supporting the legalization of same-sex marriage in Washington, and the video won the 2013 MTV award for "Best Music Video with a Message."
The single's cover art features a photo of Macklemore's uncle and his partner, and the song has been heralded by gay marriage activists as the first song promoting and celebrating same-sex marriage to reach the Top 40 charts. The video has also gotten over 78 million hits on YouTube, and was featured as part of the video sharing website's Pride Week in June.
Residents in Alexander County have reacted differently to the teacher's suspension, with several taking to the local Taylorsville Times' Facebook page to vent their frustrations or support for the school district.
While many of the comments either sided with the school district or the teacher regarding the topic of same-sex marriage, one commenter, Eric Sigmon, sought to point out that the issue was not so much about homosexuality or rap music, but rather the appropriateness of introducing such a hotly-debated issue to eighth grade students.
"This particular teacher had to know what would arise from the situation. Therefore, it seems that the teacher willingly put the children in a confusing and hotly debated situation [even for adults] that is detrimental to their development [i.e. it only confuses them further, rather than positively educating them.] This can only be seen as bad teaching, whether you support or oppose homosexuality/rap music," Sigmon wrote.
"This is likely why the teacher faced disciplinary action, not because the county is backwards or full of hate-to even suggest the contrary shows ignorance. Further, to support the teacher using children as a catalyst in such a situation seems very irresponsible," Sigmon added.
Last year, a middle school teacher in Michigan was suspended for three days for allowing a student to play Macklemore's hit in class. At the time, Macklemore responded to the suspension, but he has yet to address the most recent suspension in Alexander County, North Carolina.