NSAA turns away LGBT themed speech - News, Weather and Sports for Lincoln, NE; KLKNTV.com

UPDATE: NSAA reverses decision on LGBT themed speech

Posted: Updated: April 2, 2014 05:17 PM CDT

By: Jenn Schanz
jschanz@klkntv.com 

Inspired by Macklemore lyrics from the song "Same Love," Gordon–Rushville senior Michael Barth wrote a poem about gender identity and acceptance.

It won first place at the Nebraska School Activities Association's (NSAA) state poetry championship.

But then the NSAA asked Michael to change his poem for an upcoming NET public television program, because it felt it was too controversial..

"They asked me to change my program so it didn't represent any transgender agendas," says Barth. 

Word got out fast. Soon, social media was flooded with support for Michael and his message.

It turned some heads. Mainly, the NSAA's.

"I think the reaction of social media made me look at the decision again," says NSAA Executive Director Rhonda Blanford-Green. 

The NSAA reversed its decision late Wednesday afternoon, announcing Michael would be free to recite his poem without changes.

"I really do hope they have learned something. I really think that this will bring about an era of change of not trying to censor a student's creativity," says Michael. 

He says the outpouring of support was overwhelming.

Green says despite the backlash the Association received, she's happy with the outcome.

"For all of my day dealing with the media and listening to phone calls and emails from people all across the country, I think I learned a lot."

NET stated prior to the NSAA's change of heart that Michael would be free to recite the poem he wrote regardless of the NSAA's decision.

Michael's poem will be recorded, as written, Thursday. It will air April 20th on NET.

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UPDATE: The Nebraska School Activities Association has reversed it's decision regarding a high school state champion's poem.  The NSAA released this statement Wednesday afternoon:

The NSAA recently experienced media attention regarding a non-discrimination policy to protect the rights of students. In an attempt to divert negative attention from the "Best of the Best" NET speech production, a decision was made to focus on the students achievements and the activity of speech in Nebraska.

We were encouraged by the amount of support for Michael and freedom of speech. The Executive Director in collaboration with the NSAA Board of Directors, Nebraska Educational Television and Gordon-Rushville High School administration has made the decision to allow Michael to deliver his poetry interpretation as originally performed at the NSAA Speech Championships.

"The intent of my decision was not to stifle freedom of speech, but rather to avoid any negative connotations for individuals within this statewide production," said NSAA Executive Director Rhonda Blanford-Green. "The NSAA will continue to advocate for all students and promote equitable opportunities through activity participation."

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Nebraska School Activities Association speech champion Michael Barth is being asked not to recite his award-winning piece for the upcoming NET Television program.

Barth, a senior from Gordon-Rushville High School, won the Class C1 poetry division with a poem about gender identity and acceptance. 

He combined lyrics from Macklemore's "Same Love" with words from a poem by Andrea Gibson called "Swing Set."

After gaining praise from the audience, his peers, and NSAA judges, Barth is now being asked to recite another piece for the NET televised program. 

Hundreds have taken to Facebook to voice their support of Barth, calling the NSAA's decision censorship.

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