Dustin Kight

SC Principal Quits in Protest Over GSA

Filed By Dustin Kight | May 27, 2008 6:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: Eddie Walker, Family Equality Council, gay straight alliance, GSA, Irmo High School, Jeff Bennett, Proud Parenting, South Carolina

I could have sworn someone had already posted about this -- I guess that's what happens when you contribute to such a great, active blog! You think all the work gets done without you!

Anyway, the principal of Irmo High School in Columbia, South Carolina recently resigned in protest over the formation of a GSA. Federal law requires equal access to extracurricular activities sponsored by schools or no access at all. The school, like others around the country, had the option of disbanding all extracurricular activities or including this one, too. So they went with the sensible option (the right option for students) and moved forward with the GSA. That's when Principal Eddie Walker walked away.

Jeff Bennett, community editor over at ProudParenting.com and contributor to the Family Equality Council Blog posted about the SC principal's resignation here.

I have somewhat of a personal connection to the story, which I explain in my own follow-up post. I grew up about an hour south of Columbia, SC. Irmo High is located just outside of Columbia. For various reasons, I had friends in high school who attended Irmo. They, like I, could have really used a GSA back then -- not so long ago, really -- but when I was in school GSAs were virtually unheard of, in my neck of the woods at least.

We were closeted. We were scared. We were often harassed and bullied. We certainly felt excluded every day from the "normal" activities teenagers participate in. Some of us went toe-to-toe with administrators like this one -- sometimes winning, sometimes losing.

I didn't try to start a GSA, but I was the editor of the school paper my sophomore year, and I tried to publish an article about hate crimes committed against and by youth. Because of it's controversial nature, I had to get the vice principal in charge of student activities to approve it. He read it while I sat in his office, sighed, and then point blank asked me, "Whatever happened to good news?" and told me I couldn't run the story.

I managed to get the backing of my advisor and published it anyway. Who knows if that VP knew I was gay or sensed it. I hadn't fully resolved it at that point myself. But I do so clearly remember feeling trapped, like I couldn't really explain to him the urgency or the need to publish such an article and spark such a debate. I was doing all of this from the soundproof quarters of the closet.

Anyway, I bring this story about Irmo High School to Bilerico for two reasons:

1.) It's newsworthy and Bilerico readers like to stay in the know! So check out Jeff's post and the Associated Press article to read up on the details.

2.) More importantly, I wanted to enlist some Bilerico readership help! The Family Equality Council Blog is relatively small with certainly less action in the comments than blogs like Bilerico. After Jeff posted about the SC principal, some guy with very contrary views picked up on it and posted (read: smeared) his views all over our blog! A couple of our avid readers have been going back and forth with him in the comments, but I thought others might want to chime in, as well. You're a saucy crowd, you Projectors, you. You can see the post and the comments here.

Your cross-participation is much appreciated. And to the students in Irmo, South Carolina who pushed this thing through and sent their bigoted principal packing, good for you and Godspeed!

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Thanks for posting about this! Good riddance to this bigoted principal and kudos to the brave kids pushing forward.

And hopefully some of the "saucy" Projectors can pop over to the other blog and lend some help... :)

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | May 27, 2008 9:12 PM

My mind immediately fled to the vice president at Purdue who reviewed our petition to form a Gay campus organization. He asked if the university were to allow a recognized Gay org on campus would it result in a reduction of "offenses" at a notorious bathroom in the Student Union.

And Larry Craig was no where near the place.

The Vice president in charge of student organs was promptly told that we were unaware of any help that could be given. It was also stated that we were unaware that policing bathrooms fell into the duties and responsibilities of college students.

You know, this is a good thing actually. It's what we say about pharmacists who won't fill birth control prescriptions; if you're not willing to do the job, you should resign and find another line of work. If a pharmacist's religion prevents him from doing his job, he should quit. Simple as that.

That's what happened here. If he can't be an equal opportunity school administrator, then it's best for him to resign. He did the right thing.

Dustin, thanks for posting this. And Bil, I totally agree.

Yo, Principal! Don't let the door hit'cha where the Good Lord split'cha.

tobyhannabill | May 28, 2008 5:07 AM

Am I wrong or is that one really big school. I mean I've stormed out of places in protest (jobs, stores, movie theatres) but it has never taken me 13 months to do so.

If he is so outraged why stick around till the end of the 2008-2009 school year.

Isn't that like finding mouse droppings in your appetizer, but sticking around for dessert.

Or did I misread something....?

Maybe he feels if he leaves real, real, slooooow someone will yell. STOP!

Waiting until the end of the 2008-2009 school year may add to his retirement benefits.

I'm from SC. Irmo was one of our biggest competitions.

Thank you for sharing.

Also, don't forget to support the South Carolina Equality Coalition (statewide), which is the lobbying group for gay rights in the state.