RALEIGH, N.C. — Meeting in a rare joint session on Wednesday morning, members of the North Carolina Senate and House of Representatives approved a slate of six nominees to the state board of education, including anti-gay Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Board of Education member A.L. “Buddy” Collins.
Collins’ appointment had been opposed this week by Equality North Carolina, the statewide LGBT education and advocacy organization. Last Friday, the executive director of the national Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN) also stated her opposition to Collins’ appointment in an article in The Huffington Post. [Ed. Note — This writer attended primary and secondary school in Collins’ Winston-Salem, N.C., district and also provided some commentary on his experience in school under Collins’ leadership on the Forsyth County board of education.]
Collins has served on the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Board of Education for more than 15 years. In that time, Collins routinely opposed efforts to increase safety and anti-bullying programs for LGBT students. In 2002, Collins voted against adding protections for LGBT students to the district’s anti-bullying policies. He said they were unnecessary and the policy already protected all students.
“I think it has everything to do with whether people who are gay and lesbian have some sort of special right that everybody else doesn’t,” Collins said at the time, according to The Winston-Salem Journal. “This request could have been made by people with overweight children or kids with glasses or any other thing that children pick on other children for.”
On April 13, 2002, Collins wrote in an op-ed in The Winston-Salem Journal, “Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens have the same right to equal protection of our laws and the same expectation of privacy enjoyed by all other citizens. As a society we can and will tolerate their difference. Tolerance and compassion are worthy virtues. On the other hand, public endorsement of a homosexual union and homosexual sexual practices is another matter entirely.”
Collins’ op-ed went on to accuse GLSEN of making “seemingly innocuous requests for policy changes” and moving “on to demand sensitivity training among the faculty and finally insist on the infusion of their beliefs into the curriculum.”
In 2003, Collins voted against the addition of several LGBT-inclusive questions to the district’s annual student safety survey. He later discouraged schools Superintendent Don Martin from meeting again with community members affiliated with the local GLSEN Winston-Salem chapter.
“I can’t tell you how disappointed I am that you have allowed your staff to interact with representatives of GLSEN in connection with the survey you presented last night,” Collins wrote in an email to to Martin.
“Surely, you know that I have a very low tolerance of GLSEN,” Martin replied. “I can guarantee that regardless of the survey I will NEVER recommend or support in any way changing our policies or introducing ANY curriculum they endorse.”
On Wednesday, Collins’ nomination was opposed by several members of the House. Rep. Paul Luebke (D-Durham) attempted to offer an amendment to remove Collins’ name from the confirmation because Collins “does not care about school safety for all people,” he said.
“Mr. Collins has stated he indicated he could not support the anti-bullying provisions that the administration was sending forth because of his feelings about gays and lesbians, that he felt, in effect, they were not entitled to protection under legislation,” Luebke said when presenting his motion. “We have a nominee who does not care about school safety. His feelings expressed toward gays and lesbians, citizens of our state, is offensive to me, I think to many of us in this chamber and to many people in this state.”
Luebke’s motion was opposed by Rep. Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) and a motion to table Luebke’s removal of Collins’ nomination, seconded by House Majority Leader Edgar Starnes (R-Caldwell), was passed 76-37.
The original resolution then passed 81-32, including support from usually outspoken and LGBT-friendly legislators like Rep. Rick Glazier (D-Cumberland) and Rep. Tricia Cotham (D-Mecklenburg).
Both told qnotes they supported the resolution’s other five nominees and first voted against tabling Luebke’s motion before voting for the entire slate.
“Once that vote [on Luebke’s motion] failed and we needed to vote on the slate as a whole, because I believe several of the candidates were excellent appointments and wanted them to serve, I felt the multiple good candidates outweighed the one unqualified appointment as a slate,” Glazier told qnotes via email. “I fundamentally opposed the Collins’ nomination given his positions on bullying issues over the years on the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School Board.”
Glazier added, “As the prime sponsor of the anti-bullying bill in North Carolina — the School Violence Prevention Act — I have grave concerns over Mr. Collins’ previous votes, statements and positions on protection of LGBT students.”
Rep. Donny Lambeth (R-Forsyth), a former chair of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school board, voted in favor of his former colleague’s appointment. On Tuesday, Lambeth told The Winston-Salem Journal that Collins had “been a strong anti-bullying advocate.”
Collins’ appointed term on the North Carolina Board of Education will end on March 31, 2021.