Eddie Walker, the principal of Irmo High School in Columbia, S.C., is resigning in the wake of a decision by the Lexington-Richland School District 5 officials, to allow the creation of a gay club at his school. He has cited his own religious views for the protest move.
Walker told the local media that “Allowing the formation of this club on our campus conflicts with my professional beliefs and religious convictions.” His full letter is below.
Notably, the district officials blamed the law and lawyers for the decision — rather than stating that students should be able to form such clubs as expressive speech and association.
Instead, they took the “lawyers made us do it” approach: “Attorneys have advised the school district that prohibiting the formation of this club would most certainly result in a costly lawsuit . . . Similar lawsuits in other parts of the country have been defended unsuccessfully.”
The school officials notably did not take the action in light of the high incidence violence and intimidation. In 2007, 31 percent of gay students were threatened or injured and 18 percent were physically assaulted because of their sexual orientation.
Then there is the problem with Walker’s view that an educator cannot or should not teach in an institution that does not reflect his own religious views. Many of us view an educator’s job as maintaining a pluralistic and safe environment — not one that neatly fits one’s one religious or cultural preferences.
For the full story, click here and here.
Walker’s resignation letter:
Dear Irmo Nation,
In March I told our faculty and staff, PTSO Board, and SIC that I would be remaining at Irmo High school for two more years. I was committed to stay through the 2009-2010 school year. I am currently in good health, am excited about the future of Irmo High school, am making new friends every day, and continuing to learn from my student heroes on a daily basis. In short I am excited about coming to work every day.
However due to a recent conflict involving my professional and religious beliefs I sent Dr. Angela Bain a letter of resignation effective June 30, 2009. On May 14, 2008, I was instructed by email to allow the formation of a Gay/Straight Alliance Club at Irmo High School. On May 15, 2008 I told Ms. Ann Pilat to allow the formation of this club for the 2008-2009 school year. Allowing the formation of this club on our campus conflicts with my professional beliefs and religious convictions. I considered resigning this year but reconsidered because to not fulfill my written contract for the 2008-2009 school year would also conflict with my professional beliefs and religious convictions. In my opinion failure to fulfill my contract would constitute a breach of trust with School District Five of Lexington and Richland County, my student heroes, returning Irmo High School employees, and new employees who have chosen to work at Irmo High school for the 2008-2009 school year.
The formation of this club conflicts with my professional beliefs in that we do not have other clubs at Irmo High school based on sexual orientation, sexual preference, or sexual activity. In fact our sex education curriculum is abstinence based. I feel the formation of a Gay/Straight Alliance Club at Irmo High school implies that students joining the club will have chosen to or will choose to engage in sexual activity with members of the same sex, opposite sex, or members of both sexes.
I plan to tell our students via the intercom on Wednesday, May 21, 2008 that 2008-2009 will be my last year as Principal of Irmo High School. I don’t plan to go into detail but simply plan to let them know that I will be graduating with the class of 2008-2009 next year. I don’t intend to make a big deal out of this. Lets get it over quick so we can close this year and have a great 2008-2009 school year. I intend to work with you and our students to make 2008-2009 the best year in our illustrious history. It is very important to me that the club sponsor and all students who join this club receive Golden Rule treatment from everyone.
My decision to resign is a personal choice based on my professional beliefs and religious convictions. I have prayed about the decision for a period of time and I have a peace about it. I would ask that you respect my choice as I respect your choice to disagree with me on this issue. I bear no malice towards anyone involved. If the people involved at the district level had chosen not to allow the club to form I am sure the district would have been sued and the current legal opinions and precedents indicate that in all likelihood the district would have lost.
Eddie Walker: Class of 2008-2009
10 thoughts on “South Carolina Principal Resigns in Protest Over Approval of Gay Club at High School”
I think leaving your job is the honorable thing to do. His comments were not mean-spirited and reflected his personal religious and moral beliefs, and that, of course, is protected speech. To do otherwise would have been cowardly and dishonest. I think many groups are entirely too sensitive. The GSA realizes they are controversial and expecting everyone to agree with them is just plain stupid. They are free to associate and engage in every right available to them. They are not free to suppress criticism of their existence or their raison d’etre by Walker, or anyone else, and I wonder why their defenders would do this. If they seek to squelch the same First Amendment rights they demand for themselves, they are no more than publicity-seeking hypocrites, and their group is deserving of marginalization and scorn but for reasons unrelated to the current sexual proclivities of their membership.
His action are honorable? I think not. If he actually cared about his students, and that means all of his students, he would have simply stated that he could no longer work within the public education system because of his religious beliefs. Instead, he chose to name the GSA as the reason for his resignation, further marginilizing a group that, in all likelyhood in all ready marginalized. Honorable indeed.
If Eddie Walker is such a devout Christian, then why has he never spoken out against having the ROTC on campus? Because Eddie Walker is THAT kind of Christian – that kind that are only concerned with what people do in bed.
If Eddie has shut down a Science class because the Bible says that the Sun orbits the Earth, or had made a Math teacher instruct a class that the value of Pi is 3 (as it is in the Bible), would you defend him? Well, leaving because you can’t deal with a Gay/Straight Student Group is just as backward and silly as those examples.
People don’t form groups for sex typically — at least not in my world. Usually it’s in pairs. People form groups for express purposes like protection, or enforcing rights, or just because they like to associate. That’s not spin, it’s merely a restatement of history. All of those people are protected by the Constitution as they engage in what they do. They do not need Eddie Walker to “subsidize” anything, since we don’t work for our government officials, they work for us. Did you make any of your civics classes?
On your point that I merely glossed a few quotes to disprove your absurdity that the founding fathers “never would have considered handing education over to government in the first place,” you are simply utterly wrong on the facts.I specifically searched to find some founding father who shared your view, I could find none. That doesn’t mean there weren’t any, but it sure does mean this neo-con stupidity had to wait until the 21st Century for any sort of traction in public discourse.
Finally, your rudimentary understanding of our Constitution left me aghast. That any educated man would argue that “the [Constitution] is supposed to govern our government,” and therefore anything not contained therein is thus off limits, forces me to conclude that education in this Country is on life-support. Just as a refresher for you, the Constitution governs the organization of the Federal government. It’s amendments deal with protections of the citizenry from usurpation of its liberties by federal authorities. Portions of the Bill of Rights applies to State Governments through the 14th Amendment following Gitlow v. New York, but the States also may exercise governmental functions and guarantee fundamental rights.
The State governments are charged with public education and always have been since the dawn of the Republic and even before that. That the Constitution is silent does not mean that States may not engage in this worthy effort to “promote the general welfare.” In fact, the Tenth Amendment reserves these rights unto the States. (“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.)
The Constitution does not mention that criminal defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty, that you enjoy a right to privacy, or even that you enjoy the right to take cream in your coffee. Do you truly doubt that these propositions are the law of the land? You remind me of that pathetic neo-con, Kevin James, whom Chris Matthews had on his cable show the other night to explain why he thought Obama was an appeaser without even the faintest idea who Neville Chamberlain was or what constituted appeasement. Matthews was right on the money when he said “when you’re gonna make a direct historical reference, you’d better get it straight.” Matthews was not one to suffer fools gladly, and I confess I am besmirched with the same affliction.
You make a strong argument, but I have to point out two things. One, to say that G/L clubs are not based on sexual preference but on community of interest is just spin, not evidence of anything. Two, while you marshal some quotes from Founding Fathers and founding-era documents, you didn’t quote the Constitution; the document that is supposed to govern our government. But even assuming arguendo that you’re right, I still disagree with the outcome.
Think about it. How can we have G/L clubs in schools, while, at the same time, not forcing the Eddie Walker’s of the world to subsidize it? The answer is simple: Put education into private hand and let everyone decide for themselves. That’s a rule that everyone should be able to live with.
Your assumption is wrong. G/L clubs are not formed on the basis of sex or even sexual preference. Indeed many of the members may be celibate. Their association, protected by the Constitution, is based upon their community of interests, like maybe banding together to avoid getting beaten for their lifestyle. Would you object to a group calling itself the heterosexual club? At my high school we called that the football team and the cheerleaders. (I was a member)
Also to say that the founding fathers didn’t support government sponsored free public education is ludicrous. The first public school was founded in Massachusetts in 1643. Jefferson founded the University of Virginia, saying “[w]hat object of our lives can we propose so important [as establishing a State university]? What interest of our own which ought not to be postponed to this? Health, time, labor — on what in the single life which nature has given us, can these be better bestowed than on this immortal boon to our country? The exertions and the mortifications are temporary; the benefit eternal.” (Thomas Jefferson to Joseph C. Cabell, 1821. ME 15:312).
The Massachusetts Constitution of 1780 said that “it shall be the duty of legislatures and magistrates, in all future periods of this commonwealth, to cherish the interests of literature and the sciences, and all seminaries of them; especially the university at Cambridge, public schools and grammar schools in the towns.”
The Northwest Ordinance (1787) said that “Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”
Benjamin Franklin was an enthusiastic promoter of the public education system, and James Madison praising public education in Virginia said “I congratulate you on the foundation thus laid for a general System of Education, and hope it presages a superstructure, worthy of the patriotic forecast which has commenced the Work. The best service that can be rendered to a Country, next to that of giving it liberty, is in diffusing the mental improvement equally essential to the preservation, and the enjoyment of the blessing.”
The debate you want about the government’s role in education was decided about the same time the 13 colonies were amalgamated into a union, where were you?
Here’s my take on the issue. One, you don’t have to be particularly religious to think that a club based on sex, or sexual preference, is inappropriate for high school. Two, the reason why we’re tying ourselves in knots about free speech and association in public schools is because we’ve turned education over to the government. The Founding Fathers never would have considered what to do about free speech and association in public schools, because they never would have considered handing education over to government in the first place. We’ve spent decades debating the contours of free speech and association in public schools, but no one has bothered to ask just what role the government *should* have in educating our kids. It’s a you-get-what-you-ask-for kind of thing.
I am certain Hagee, Haggard, Wright, and Swaggert et als. are forging him one up right now.
This man should get a medal.
“If the people involved at the district level had chosen not to allow the club to form I am sure the district would have been sued and the current legal opinions and precedents indicate that in all likelihood the district would have lost.”
I really have no problem with his position if he feels it is a matter of conscience, and given that he recognizes that this is the law. His blame of lawyers is pro forma, and I wonder how much impact this really has except among the lawyer-haters out there. I really wish he would be a poster boy for other government officials who harbor such anti-inclusionary beliefs, but secretly effect policies to circumvent the law. Eddie* Walker is no Thomas More but his actions are honorable and in keeping with his beliefs. That being said, his insensitivity to the plight of G/L students does him no credit and perhaps the next administrator will do better, so it appears to be a win-win all the way ’round.
* No derision intended, but doesn’t it seem that many men in the South like to keep their childhood nicknames? Seems a bit out of place once they get beyond 18.
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