Emily Gipson is a 16-year-old student at Lebanon High School in Lebanon, Tennessee. The student recorded and posted a five-minute video to YouTube on January 22. She titled the video, “Welcome to Lebanon High School.”
According to the Associated Press, the video was allegedly inspired by a classmate who committed suicide back in October 2017:
The video, which shows Gipson in a classroom, begins with the teenager saying:
“I'd like to take you on a journey, so close your eyes and come with me. Welcome to Lebanon High School, where I walk down blank hallways every day, where students walk down blank hallways every day. No, I'd like you to imagine that you walk down blank hallways every day. I'd like you to imagine that you sit in white blank rooms every day for eight hours, you would begin to feel blank, but what does it mean to feel blank, what does it mean to feel like a white canvas, just blank?”
Gipson went on to explain that the definition of the word blank is “a space left to be filled,” but then asks a series of questions, starting “what will it take to fill that space?” She continued:
“What if I told you could fill that space? [...] What if I also told you that it would take a tragedy? What if I told you that the cost of love, acceptance, and encouragement was your peer's life? Why? Why make this anymore miserable, oh but don't worry that's not the worst of it. Welcome to Lebanon High School, where 'Keep them in class, teachers, make them leave here tired,' is our daily motto.”
Gipson then slammed both her school and her community for not taking action against the bullies who make life even harder:
“Now I'd like you to imagine that these hallways begin to be filled. Posters say ‘Smile’ and ‘Be happy,’ but how am I supposed to be happy in a world – no, in a community – where creativeness is put down, where the people that make fun of others never get punished because ‘There’s no proof,’ or ‘Well, there’s nothing we can do about it,’ or, my favorite, ‘Kids will be kids.'
So let’s summarize: We’re expected to come to this emotional prison every day, and we’re expected to forgive the bullies because the authorities are sure they didn’t mean it. Sometimes I wonder, I wonder how many, sometimes I wonder just how many kids it takes dying to make a difference."
While Gipson calls out the administration and other authority figures for their lack of action, the teen never once used profanity or called for violence. However that didn't stop Lebanon High School's principal, Scott Walters, from suspending Gipson for the video.
According to Gipson, school administrators gave her a two-day in-school suspension for “trying to incite violence” with her YouTube video.
Walters told the AP that while he can't discuss the teen's punishment, he did admit that the video hurt his, as well as other teachers', feelings, but that he “can appreciate the perspective of the video”:
“Of course, she’s 16, and her perspective is going to be different from mine.”
He also added that Gipson recorded the video in a classroom without anyone's permission. However, Gipson said she was given permission by two coaches to use the classroom as her backdrop.
Gipson told the AP that her suspension was well-worth “the good” the video produced. She then shared this message in a Facebook post:
I’d like to talk a moment to say thank you to all the people that have shared my video and reached out to me with support. I cannot explain how much I appreciate each and every one of you. I would also like to remind to keep sharing!! I am hearing from people out of this state!!!! Make this change lives I need YOUR help! Lastly, if ANYONE needs my help, my guidance, my opinion, my help, or just someone to talk to. ANYONE can reach out to me. ANYONE no matter our past. Message me if you need me. I love you all and thank you again.
My video has become quite popular. Every day since this there has been repercussions about it. The people that can help change this are seeing this as negative. PLEASE help me get it more National this is more than Lebanon this is NATIONAL. PLEASE go comment on my YouTube video.
Gipson uploaded a second YouTube video just two days after her original video went viral. You can listen to more of Gipson's message below: