Yoakley Transferred
English teacher James Yoakley during his journalism class Monday at Lenoir City High School. Yoakley is the facility adviser for the yearbook staff at the high school.  (MICHAEL PATRICK/NEWS SENTINEL)
James Yoakley

James Yoakley, the Lenoir City High School teacher at the center of the recent controversy over the "It's Ok To BE Gay" article in the school's yearbook has been transferred within the school system.

Yoakley has been transferred to Lenoir City Middle School where he will teach English. Since Yoakley will no longer be at the high school, he will also no longer be the staff advisor for the yearbook nor the school news paper, The Panther Press. No replacement for the yearbook or paper staff advisor has yet been named.

In Tennessee, school superintendents have full authority to make any staff changes they feel would be in the best interest of the school system. 

Lenoir City teacher in yearbook controversy transferred

By Hugh G. Willett knoxnews.com

The Lenoir City High School teacher who found himself at the center of a series of controversies surrounding the school newspaper and yearbook has been transferred to another position within the school system.

James Yoakley, who served as chair of the English department at LCHS, has been transferred to the Lenoir City Middle School, according to Rosemary Quillen Chairwoman of the school board. Yoakley has been teaching at the high school for 11 years and has been supervisor of the school paper and yearbook for six years.

Yoakley, who could not be reached for comment, received the news in a meeting at the school department headquarters Thursday. Quillen said the decision to transfer Yoakley was made by schools superintendent Wayne Miller.

"The superintendent has full authority to make transfers," she said.

In the past few months Yoakley's students have been involved in several issues that have brought national attention to Lenoir City schools.

In February, LCHS senior and editor of the school newspaper Krystal Myers created a stir when an article she wrote about atheism for the school newspaper generated a national debate on the issue.

Although the school system declined to publish the article, the News Sentinel and a numerous other news outlets across the country did publish it. The article alleged several violations of the establishment clause of the constitution.

After pressure from secular organizations such as the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, the Lenoir City school system agreed to stop prayer before school board meetings and football games.

Earlier this month Yoakley came under fire from parents and other residents for allowing the LCHS yearbook to publish a student-written article on the experiences of a gay student. The article, titled "It's OK to be Gay," ignited a storm of protest including calls for a criminal investigation into Yoakley's influence on his students.

Yoakley has denied that he is improperly influencing his students, insisting that he tries to allow them to make their own decisions about what should be published and which issues are important to the other students. He said he is proud of the work his students have done this year.

The decision to transfer Yoakley follows a May 10 school board meeting where Quillen and the board promised parents and local residents the issue with the year book would be investigated and actions would be taken to prevent further controversy.