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WI: School Newspaper Piece on Gay Parenting – Bullying or Freedom of Religious Expression?


Shawano School District in northeast Wisconsin is coping with the fallout of a controversial student column in the high school newspaper. The topic: same-sex couples as parents. A local gay male couple with school-age children expressed alarm about passages in the Hawks Post piece that cite Bible verses alleging homosexuality a sin punishable by death. 1,2
The school paper also included an opposing viewpoint from a student columnist who argued that sexual orientation does not determine a person's ability to be an effective parent.

The parent who raised concerns about the anti-gay piece, Nick Uttecht, is raising four children with partner Michael McNelly.

To quote the student columnist: "If one is a practicing Christian, Jesus states in the Bible that homosexuality is [a] detestable act and sin which makes adopting wrong for homosexuals because you would be raising the child in a sin-filled environment…In a Christian society, allowing homosexual couples to adopt is an abomination." 3
Superintendent Todd Carlson issued an apology, assuring the Shawano community that the district would work harder to prevent offensive or disrespectful items from appearing in future issues of the student paper. Carlson characterized the piece as a form of bullying.
Some conservatives have denounced the superintendent’s apology, arguing that the column is not a form of anti-gay bullying. Writing for the conservative national publication Human Events, John Hayward said, “the young author’s work is being twisted and misrepresented to fit him into the ‘bullying’ crusade, so the cowards involved can climb on their high horses and pretend to be oh-so-enlightened about it.” 4 Hayward alleges that the district is suppressing religious expression by taking action to address Uttecht’s concerns. It remains to be seen whether more local voices will express agreement with Hayward or with Superintendent Carlson.
1 Patti Zarling, “High School Newspaper Column Sparks Controversy,”, 15 January 2012, accessed 18 January 2012,
2 Patti Zarling, “Gay Debate Hits Home in Shawano,”, 15 January 2012, accessed 18 January 2012, <>.
3  Ibid.
John Hayward, “High School Newspaper Column Opposing Gay Adoption Censored As ‘Bullying’,” Human Events, 18 January 2012, accessed 19 January 2012, <>.