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Friday, March 11, 2005

Virginia School District Cancels GSA Speaker

As reported in the Washington Blade, "Gay author Greg Herren said he was surprised when he was asked to give a presentation to the Gay-Straight Alliance at Manchester High School in Chesterfield County, Va."

"He was told that his presentation had been approved by the faculty adviser of the school’s one-year-old Gay-Straight Alliance, as well as by the principal of the school. He was even asked to donate copies of some of his books for a new gay section in the school library."

Then just one week before the presentation he was contacted by a reporter for the Richmond Time-Dispatch about 'the controversy'. This was the first Herren knew about a 'controversy'.

He then learned that the virulently anti-gay Virginia Family Policy Network had mounted a vicious e-mail campaign against him. They characterized Herren a “gay porn” writer and suggesting that it was not appropriate for him to be in contact with students. The e-mail urged parents to contact the school and object to Herren’s visit.

Herren as produced some erotic writings, but that's only a small part of his work. His primary output consists of mystery novels. His presentation was to be about being a professional writer and had nothing to do with sex. He told the Times-Dispatch, “My message [to students] is to be yourself and chase your dreams. I don’t read from my books to kids, mainly because I know that parents might find my books troubling.”

The school board met without taking time to check the facts of the situation. They chose to believe the rumormongers of the anti-gay Virginia Family Policy Network, an organization that promoted legislation to ban Gay-Straight Alliances from Virginia schools.

Meanwhile the ACLU discovered the the school district is not treating the GSA equally with other groups at the school. "In addition to the cancellation of Mr. Herren's program, it appears that the [Gay-Straight Alliance] has been treated differently in other ways," the ACLU [stated in a letter to the school]. "First, the GSA has been approved for only one year. It is my understanding that other student organizations do not have such time restrictions. Second, the GSA has been told that it may not use its full name, Gay-Straight Alliance, in its posters, nor may it include language indicating that meetings are open to all students, whether gay, straight, or questioning."

At least one other newspaper, The Virginia Pilot, has picked up the rumormongering of the hate group, Virginia Family Policy Association, and published an editorial supporting the school district's deplorable behavior. "Is a writer like Herren, who concerns himself largely with erotic themes, an appropriate speaker for a high school audience?"

Take Action

1. Write to the school board and high school responsible for this incident. Tell them that the kind of prejudice that accepts the word of vicious rumormongers over the facts is simply not acceptable.

2. Write to the Board late, but right in canceling speaker, he failed his community by accepting the word of rumormongers.


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