Early this month, 17-year-old YouTube blogger Austin Wallis posted an emotional 10-minute video in which he said he'd been forced to leave his private school because he's gay. The school's principal, he said, called him into the office and delivered an ultimatum: Wallis was to delete all of his social media accounts and go back into the closet, or else he'd be banned from any extracurricular activities at school.
Wallis says he ultimately felt he had no other choice but to leave. But in his video, Wallis doesn't identify the school, saying he doesn't want the episode to tarnish the reputations of the students and teachers who supported him while he was there. But late last week, the Texas Observer reported that Wallis attended Lutheran High North, a small private school just north of the Heights.
It appears Wallis ran afoul the "morals clause" in the school's handbook, in which the school says it reserves the right to refuse admission or "discontinue enrollment" of any student "participating in, promoting, supporting or condoning: pornography, sexual immorality, homosexual activity or bisexual activity." LHN, part of the Lutheran Education Association of Houston, told the Observer in a statement:
"Lutheran High North welcomes all students and their families to the LHN community. We profess and proclaim our Christian beliefs with the foundations and authority taught in the Bible, all within the teachings of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod. We respectfully require students to adhere to these accepted values and moral beliefs. Sometimes, as in this case, students have to make choices and decide whether their beliefs align with our community and we respect their choices. We also respect student privacy and do not comment on any individual student or their actions."
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Wallis came out publicly on his YouTube channel last year, and since has posted dozens of videos with his boyfriend. Wallis, in the video he posted earlier this month, admits that school officials were perfectly within their rights to ask him to go back into the closet. LHN is a private religious school, after all. Still, he says:
"I think it's ridiculous in this day and age that you can be excluded from your own school for being gay. When I came out, I knew I was going to have bullies ... but I never expected it to be from the people who are supposed to protect you from the bullies, who are supposed to try to stop that."
Wallis also calls himself a Christian. "I am a Christian and I love my god, and I don't feel like this is what he would have wanted," he says. "I don't feel like excluding someone for who they are is anything near Christian."