Lawyer: School that blocked speech didn’t discriminate
Longmont, Colo. — A school didn’t discriminate by blocking a graduation speech by a valedictorian who wanted to disclose that he is gay, according to an outside attorney hired by Twin Peaks Charter Academy to investigate the decision.
The conclusion will be sent to the St. Vrain Valley school board, which is expected to review the report next month, The Daily Camera reported Monday.
School valedictorian Evan Young, 18, was blocked this spring from giving a graduation speech in which he planned to out himself as gay. The school’s decision raised the ire of gay-rights activists.
The principal who blocked the speech, BJ Buchmann, has since left the school for another job. But the charter school’s lawyer, William Bethke, concluded that the speech was blocked because the valedictorian didn’t communicate with school administrators and his parents and used inappropriate humor in it, not because the student is gay.
The Twin Peaks board is sharing the lawyer’s conclusion along with a note defending its actions.
“The efforts of organizations to twist this situation into a politically polarizing gay and lesbian issue are shameless,” the board wrote. “To promote the protection of one person, and yet remain silent on premeditated plans to embarrass members of the audience, reveals their intention to use this situation to push their own political agendas.”
The letter goes on to say that Buchmann “exercised lawful editorial control by rejecting a speech that was designed to embarrass, mock and ridicule those in the commencement audience.”
Young’s dad called the report honest and fair, but said the issue isn’t about the speech, but making the school a safer place for its students.
The district is asking Twin Peaks to participate in administering a district survey addressing topics that include whether students are experiencing bullying or harassment.
Free-speech rights extend to public schools, though the U.S. Supreme Court has said that schools may regulate student speech that could disrupt classroom work, giving schools veto power over things like student newspapers and student speeches.