Updated: May 22, 2008, 5:40 p.m. EST
Irmo High School Principal Eddie Walker (left) stands with a community member and students
IRMO, S.C. — The principal of Irmo High School, located just minutes to the northwest of Columbia, announced to the school today his intentions to resign at the end of the 2008-2009 school year. His resignation is the result of an order from the school superintendent to allow the formation of a gay-straight student organization, most commonly known as gay-straight alliances, or GSAs.
In a letter sent to the student body and faculty, and obtained by WIS News 10 Columbia, Irmo High School Principal Eddie Walker wrote, “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.”
Walker also said he had “prayed about the decision for a period of time and I have a peace about it.”
Now, SC Equality, an LGBT advocacy organization based in Columbia, is pushing for Walker’s immediate termination.
“This Principal has emphatically and publicly stated that he does not support a significant portion of his student body,” SC Equality Executive Director C. Ray Drew said on May 22. “He has created an atmosphere where intolerance is considered a principled stand.”
Research completed via national student surveys conducted by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) shows that 80 percent of LGBT students do not know a single supportive adult at their school. The data also shows that 38 percent of gay students face hostility and violence in the course of their required attendance at school and 18 percent of gay students experience physical assault.
“Gay students face more verbal harassment and physical violence than any group of students,” SC Equality claimed.
Rev. Bennie Colclough, the minister of Providence Christian Church and a member of the Board of Directors of South Carolina Equality stated, “I ask Mr. Walker to join me in prayer for these gay students who face wholesale discrimination and harassment every day of their school year. Discrimination is simply immoral.”
He added, “[Walker’s] resignation is a farce. If he truly stands on religious convictions, then why didn’t he resign immediately? Instead he has deliberately created an unsafe world for these students for the next year.”
Buddy Price, Lexington School District Five’s director of community services, issued a statement outlining the system’s reasons for allowing the gay-straight alliance.
The statement read, “The federal law known as the Equal Access Act does not permit the school to discriminate against a club based on the club’s purpose and viewpoint by not allowing it to form unless the purpose of the club is unlawful.”
“It is a shame that the principal at Irmo High School in South Carolina decided to place religion-based bigotry and discrimination over his former commitment to his students and staff,” Faith In America Executive Director Brent Childers said in a prepared statement. “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. To make such a choice over simply allowing gay youth a forum to meet and talk, alludes to the apparent deep-seated prejudice that must exist in the religious mindset of this person.”
FULL LETTER TO IRMO HIGH SCHOOL
Principal Eddie Walker
Courtesy WIS 10 Columbia
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. Let’s 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.
Sincerely, Eddie Walker