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.
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