Almost overnight, the simple statement that "it is okay to be gay" has turned the spotlight on a model Naparima College Upper Six student, making him a hero in the eyes of some and a pariah to others.
The young man in question, considered an academically gifted student by his peers and teachers, having achieved nine distinctions at the CSEC Level and who hopes to win an island scholarship, has since gone from being on the "A" list to blacklist.
However, the young man, who wants to pursue a career in law so he can continue to help the disenfranchised, has sworn not to let this incident shift his focus from his ultimate goals.
He told the T&T Guardian when he made the pronouncement in opposition to anti-gay sentiments uttered by a teacher as he spoke at the school's morning assembly the day before, it was not intended to bring the prestigious institution into disrepute.
He said he did not envisage the teacher would have been so affected by his comment that she would have vented before Form Five classes on that and other issues, she having been chastised by her colleagues for her initial remarks.
One of the sessions, in which the teacher erroneously dubbed him as being gay, his parents as "screw ups" and "atheists" and threatened to take them and their offsprings out if she had a gun, was recorded (audio) by a student and posted to social media.The post quickly went viral and has been picked up by mainstream media, putting the institution and the teacher under a microscope.
Issues of drug use by students, some of whom are before the court and whom she identified by name and the mode of dress of female and male teachers have also been brought to the fore.Some have called for the teacher's removal and evaluation while support has come from various stakeholders.
However, some students have also created an online petition hoping to garner at least 1,000 signatures in support of the teacher.The student said his peers smashing his phone and labelling him gay was shocking but not unexpected.
"A lot of them think I cause the situation Miss is in. They are saying she is a good teacher and she should not have to face the repercussion for what she did but all I did was say in my very unorthodox style what a lot of people (students and staff) were thinking but were afraid to voice," he told the T&T Guardian.
Asked why he did it, the young man, the first of four boys for his parents, said he and his siblings had been brought up by their parents to be independent thinkers, to stand up for what they believed in and to be respectful.
"She was disenfranchising and discriminating against a large group of students, many of which I know are in the school. I don't think that is right.
"If she had gone up there and said the same thing about people of African descent the backlash would have been way greater than it was," he said.
On Tuesday, the teacher, instructed by the principal, apologised at the morning assembly but said she stood by her words, which were misconstrued and misunderstood. She also "apologised" to the young man later in the day, even though she was advised not to interact with him.