Contrary to the impression one would get reading Ethics Alarms, school administrators don’t always make the wrong decisions, and don’t always behave like pusillanimous, politically correct fools. In Colorado, for instance, the Twin Peaks Charter Academy High School administration made exactly the right call in this year’s inevitable valedictorian controversy. Naturally, the mainstream news media is roundly condemning it.
This is why most school administrators behave like pusillanimous, politically correct fools. It’s easier.
Evan Young, an 18-year-old graduating senior at Twin Peaks Charter Academy High School in Longmont, Colorado was selected as his graduating class’s valedictorian. (Here all the other accounts you read will point out that he has a 4.5 GPA and a scholarship awaiting him at Rutgers University. How smart he is and deserving of the honor is 100% irrelevant to the ethics issue in the story, but that information is being included as part of the effort to make Young an attractive and sympathetic “victim.”) He agreed to make edits to his speech required by school Principal B. J. Buchmann, but refused to eliminate the passage in which he disclosed that he was gay. As a result, Young was not allowed to give his speech at all, and thus was not recognized as valedictorian at the May 16 graduation.
Young says that part of his speech’s design was to tell everyone his secrets. “Most of the things were stupid stuff — books I never read that I was supposed to, or homework I didn’t like. But then I gradually worked up to serious secrets. My main theme is that you’re supposed to be respectful of people, even if you don’t agree with them. I figured my gayness would be a very good way to address that.”
He figured incorrectly. It was one way to address that, but not an appropriate way considering the forum, and the school had every right to tell him to keep his sexual orientation out of the proceedings.
In a statement released by the school’s board of directors, the school explained that Young’s attempted self-outing violated the school’s rules. It also said that “references to personal matters of sexual nature” are “not ever appropriate” at a graduation ceremony. There may be differing opinions on that proposition, but the school’s position cannot be called unreasonable, and reasonableness is all the U.S. Supreme Court has required.
School attorney Barry Arrington added that a graduation ceremony is “a time for family and those closest to the students to celebrate success and express mutual wishes of gratitude and respect. It is not a time for a student to use his commencement speech to push his personal agenda on a captive audience, and school officials are well within their rights to prevent that from happening.”
He is right. Young, who is now making a cause celebre and gay martyr of himself—yes, he’s smart all right— to mindless cheers from the left, is also protesting that when the principle called to discuss the speech dispute with his parents, he revealed to them that their son was gay, which they didn’t know, or so Young thinks. Or says he thinks. “That was the first time in Evan Young’s life that his parents had been given a clue about his sexual identity” says Yahoo News.
What’s going on here? Teenage narcissism, that’s what. Young wanted to hijack a ceremony intended for all students and their families to tell his parents he was gay, which is a grandiose version of taking your girl friend to a fancy restaurant to break up with her. It’s also egregious sexual identity grandstanding. If we shouldn’t care if you’re gay, son, we don’t care if you’re gay. Who you want to have sex with and how is not a legitimate topic for a valedictorian speech, at least in the completely legitimate assessment of those who run the school you are graduating from.. You are free to disagree, and you can have a different policy when you run your own school.
I give Young credit for one thing, and it is not trivial. A lot of students in his position would have agreed to the changes demanded by the principal, and then said what they wanted to say anyway. He handled the dispute fairly and honestly. Good for him. He was still wrong, but wrong in an ethical manner.
The spin on this I am reading in the blogs and news reports, however, is demented. Many are highlighting the complaint of the parents. “The kid worked hard for four years,” Young’s father said. “Straight A’s and everything else. He wasn’t even recognized.” Yes, and that was entirely due to his own choice and actions. We are being given solemn quotes of disapproval by voices like LGBT activist group One Colorado’s Executive Director Dave Montez, who said, “I would say to the high school principal, outing someone to his family without giving them the opportunity to have that conversation, is dangerous and it can lead to terrible repercussions for LGBT kids.”
But outing themselves to their family before hundreds of other people in a formal ceremony is far better, healthier and safer? Baloney.
“The school’s treatment of Young is not an isolated incident. Almost 75 percent of LGBT students report instances of verbal harassment and bullying at school. As many as 56 percent of LGBT students reported discriminatory practices based on their sexual orientation or identity, according to the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network 2014 report.”
The school’s adhering to its reasonable policies regarding sexual content in graduation speeches does not constitute bullying, verbal harassment or a discriminatory practice—has it allowed other valedictorians to announce that they were proud and active heterosexuals?— by any standard. In this case, the student was wrong and misguided, and the school was reasonable, fair and correct. It should be a lesson for him, but the culture appears determined to keep him deluded.
Graphic: Denver Post