YADKINVILLE, N.C. — A Yadkin County school official said Tuesday night that he believes a gay couple should be allowed to attend their senior prom.
“This has been a really hot topic. I’ve gotten more phone calls on this than anything else since I’ve been on the board,” Larry Vestal said. “But to me, this was kinda a ‘no brainer.’ I know people are upset, but they just need to get over it . . . I feel like the board made the right decision.”
Vestal’s comments come on the heels of the school board’s recent decision to allow Chase Wall, a Starmount High School student, and his boyfriend, Jordan Beam, to attend the May 1 prom. At first, the school’s principal, Danyelle Parker, told Wall that he couldn’t bring Beam to the prom.
Beam’s mother, Lisa Nixon, was intent on her son and Wall attending the prom and told Parker she planned to contact the American Civil Liberties Union and the media. School Superintendent James Bentled consulted with the board’s attorney and was told that the school system must comply with its non-discriminatory policy.
Vestal said that Bentley made the right decision even though he said it might not be a popular one, especially in a small, rural county of 38,000 residents that is steeped in traditional conservative values. Many of Vestal’s constituents believe that homosexuality is a sin and that the school board should not endorse gay rights.
Vestal said officials can’t discriminate against a student or faculty because of their sexual orientation.
“We met with our attorney and he gave us good advice and I’m glad we are following that,” Vestal said. “We were told that we had to stick by our non-discrimination policy and that meant allowing him (Wall) to bring his friend to the prom.”
Vestal, who was elected to the board two years ago, said that he and other board members have fielded several angry phone calls from county residents. One caller, Vestal said, said she wouldn’t support Vestal in the next election.
Vestal recalled a similar situation when he was a student at Jonesville High School more than 40 years ago. One of his students, who was gay, didn’t attend the school’s prom, fearing retribution from his classmates.
“We’ve had gay students before,” Vestal said. “In that case, the student just chose not to go to the prom and I think that was a shame. That is something a person only gets to do once or twice in their life.”
Vestal said he wished all of the board’s decisions generated the same kind of passion and interest from the community.
“It’s a shame an issue like this gets more attention than the actual education of a student,” he said.
— This article was originally published at YadkinValleyNews.com on April 21, 2010 and was written by editor Andy Matthews, Amatthews@yadkinvalleynews.com. This article is reprinted with permission.