A Tennessee student said she was punished by her high school’s principal after posting an anti-bullying video on YouTube that went viral.
Emily Gipson, a junior at Lebanon High School, says she was motivated to speak out after her classmate, 15-year-old Allie Johnson committed suicide in October.
Johnson’s friends told television station WSMV in Nashville that she was bullied before she died.
“I’ve seen problems with bullying, problems with bullying not being dealt with, and I feel like some things are just put aside,” Gipson told the station.
“It’s not just about Lebanon,” she explained. “It’s about everywhere because everywhere does have these problems. Anywhere I can make a difference I’d love to.”
The 5-minute video was posted to YouTube last week and already has more than 550,000 views.
In it, Gipson calls on her peers to respect each other.
“Welcome to Lebanon High School, where you come to be analyzed from head-to-toe every day by people you don’t even know,” Gipson says in the video.
Gipson told WSMV she’s received hundreds of messages of support from young people around the U.S. One girl even said she was going to commit suicide but changed her mind when she watched the video.
“You have made a difference,” the message read. “You saved my life.”
Gipson recorded the video in an LHS classroom after school, an act she received two days of in-school suspension after it went viral.
Principal Scott Walters told WSMV the punishment was not related to her message, but rather for being in a classroom after hours without permission.
But Gipson disputed that, saying she had received permission.
“I did record it after school hours,” Gipson told the Lebanon Democrat. “I did have permission by the teacher. It was a coach and another coach, and I approached them.”
She added, “I got a lot of positive feedback from students, but I was called out of class by my principal and vice principal. They sat me down and had a really long talk with me about it. They sent me back to class, but they pulled me out of class again fifth block, and that was when they told me about my punishment.”
Her punishment, she said, was two days of in-school suspension.
“I was also told that if I posted more videos or took more action, I would receive out-of-school suspension,” Gipson told the newspaper. “They gave me in-school suspension because they said I was trying to incite violence while on the school campus. I didn’t have any intentions to incite any kind of violence. Everyone sees my message their own way, and if that’s how they see it, then so be it.”
Still, Gipson said she has no regrets.
“If that’s what it takes to make a difference that’s what I’m going to do,” she said. “Because a difference needs to be made.”