As a recently retired teacher of 33 years, I am disappointed to observe how Twin Peaks Charter Academy handled the teaching moment Evan Young’s graduation speech presented. When they could have taught tolerance and freedom of speech/expression, instead they taught intolerance and suppression of free speech.
Evan Young is a shy, witty and very intelligent young man. He happens to be gay and wanted to weave this fact into his valedictory graduation address where he spoke about the importance of respecting others — whether or not you agree with them. It’s ironic Evan was not given the very respect his speech was about.
Outing Evan to his father was wholly inappropriate. Informing Evan minutes before the ceremony began that he would not be allowed to speak added insult to injury. Not acknowledging Evan as valedictorian was punitive. Throwing him under the bus in their public statement was a cheap shot. Four missed opportunities to afford Evan, a 4.5 GPA student with a scholarship to Rutgers, basic respect and dignity. Evan deserves better, and so do taxpayers.
Because Twin Peaks Charter receives public monies to operate, the SVVSD superintendent and school board have an obligation to pursue this matter. While charter schools are exempt from direct oversight by the school district, this does not mean they get a waiver to discriminate. At the very least, Twin Peaks Charter Academy owes Evan and his parents a formal apology. They also need to provide assurances to taxpayers that measures are being taken to ensure they will not discriminate in the future.
If Twin Peaks is not able to meet these reasonable criteria, their charter should be revoked. Hopefully, Twin Peaks will take this opportunity to rectify their lost teaching moment into a lesson involving self-reflection, reconciliation and improvement.