By Hannah Parry

A Missouri high school has removed yearbook quotes from two openly gay students.

Seniors Joey Slivinski and Thomas Swartz at Kearney School District had both decided to use their yearbook quotes to celebrate coming out while at school.

"Of course I dress well. I didn't spend all that time in the closet for nothing", Slivinski's quote read.

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Thomas Swartz (left) said the move had left a bitter taste at the end of many happy years at the school, while Joey Slivinksi (right) wrote that the decision made him feel like the school was
Thomas Swartz (left) said the move had left a bitter taste at the end of many happy years at the school, while Joey Slivinksi (right) wrote that the decision made him feel like the school was "ashamed of having a gay studentL. Photos / Facebook

"If Harry Potter taught us anything, it's that no one should have to live in the closet", read Swartz's.

But both students, who are openly gay, say they were outraged to find that neither quote had been included after the year books arrived.

Instead, they were left with just a blank space under each of their names. Neither student was consulted before the quote was pulled.

Slivinksi wrote that the decision made him feel like the school was "ashamed of having a gay student".

"Kearney School District showed me that I am not accepted for being who I am", he wrote in a Facebook post liked hundreds of times.

"I put a very innocent quote as my senior quote and they took it away from me with absolutely no warning or option to change it.

"Our schools are supposed to be a place that you can express being who you are. Today I realised Kearney isn't ready for me being me. I always thought Kearney was going up hill but quickly realised we're zooming down hill quick."

I have always supported the Kearney School District. I have done nothing but always say good things about our schools. I...

Posted by Joey Slivinski on Tuesday, 8 August 2017

The Kearney School District claims it removed their quotes without warning over concerns that they could "potentially offend" other students.

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"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," the statement read.

"Doing so in this case had the unintentional consequence of offending the very students the practice was designed to protect. We sincerely apologise to those students, it continued. "We acknowledge our mistake and will use it as a learning opportunity to improve in the future."

But Swartz pointed out that the school had allowed other "potentially offensive" quotes, such as one student who wrote: "If I could vote, I would've voted for Trump because I can't stand having a woman as president."

Both students, who are openly gay, say they were shocked and hurt to find that neither quote had been included after the year books arrived. Photo / KCTV 5
Both students, who are openly gay, say they were shocked and hurt to find that neither quote had been included after the year books arrived. Photo / KCTV 5

Swartz added that both he and Slivinski had submitted their quotes at the beginning of December last year, giving the school plenty of time to discuss changing them, but said that no one had approached them to say there was any problem.

The students are now planning to make stickers with their quotes to put in their friends' yearbooks.

But Swartz said the move had left a bitter taste at the end of many happy years at the school.

He said that the "direct discrimination" had "ruined" his last year at school, and was "completely disheartened and angry" to have suffered "this type of senseless censorship."

They were left with just a blank space under each of their names. Neither student was consulted before the quote was pulled. Photo / KCTV 5
They were left with just a blank space under each of their names. Neither student was consulted before the quote was pulled. Photo / KCTV 5

Friends of the pair also expressed their outrage at the school's move.

Mikala Dawn wrote in a Facebook comment on Slivinski's post that the school district "should be ashamed!"

"They are taking away your first amendment - freedom of speech. I'm so proud that you spoke out!" she added.

Others deemed it "unacceptable" and "bulls**t".

"That is messed up! Kearney is spiralling downhill," Mallory Haskins said.

"Not cool," added Cody Miller. "Crazy how close minded some people can be back home, our City Hall literally flies the Pride flag here."