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S.C. principal to resign after gay club approved for school

By The Associated Press
05.22.08

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The principal of a South Carolina high school plans to resign rather than share his campus with an organization for gay students.

Irmo High School Principal Eddie Walker confirmed yesterday to the Associated Press that he is stepping down at the end of the 2008-09 school year. Walker said he gave his reasons in a letter sent to teachers and others, and he refused to talk about the issue further.

In a copy of the letter obtained by WIS-TV in Columbia, Walker said allowing the Gay-Straight Alliance on campus would conflict with his professional beliefs and religious convictions because there are no other clubs on campus based on sexual preference or activity and the school teaches abstinence-based sex education.

“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,” wrote Walker, who said he prayed about the issue before deciding to step down.

In the letter, Walker wrote he wanted to resign at the end of this school year, but he felt that by doing so, he would break the trust of students and teachers who were already planning on him to come back. Walker would not release the note to AP.

Lexington-Richland School District 5 couldn’t stop the club from forming because federal law prohibits discriminating against a club based on its purpose, spokeswoman Michelle Foster said. The district would have had to ban all clubs from campus or face a lawsuit it would likely lose if it kept the club from the school, Foster said.

Gay-rights group Faith in America said Walker’s decision is based on prejudice that is harmful to students and likened his decision to policies that once allowed segregation to flourish.

“We truly believe it is unfortunate that this principal cannot see the immense harm that is caused when a social climate of rejection, condemnation and violence is justified with misguided religious belief,” said Brent Childers, executive director of the group.


Update
S.C. district opts not to ban gay clubs
School board had considered barring student clubs that don't relate to academics or sports after high school principal said he would resign in conflict over Gay-Straight Alliance. 06.25.08

Related

Unlikely alliance takes on school conflict

Conservative Christians, gay advocates join forces to create guidelines for how educators, parents, teachers should deal with any aspect of school life involving sexual orientation. 03.10.06

Gay-straight student club can meet while lawsuit proceeds
Federal judge says group has 'demonstrated a substantial likelihood of success' on claim that Florida school violated law when it prohibited club from meeting. 04.09.07

Gay-straight club can meet at Fla. high school
Federal judge finds Okeechobee County school board violated students' First Amendment, equal-access rights. 07.31.08

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