Every year, the Des Moines-based Eychaner Foundation awards the Matthew Shepard Scholarship to a group of openly LGBT high school students who have excelled in academics and given back to their communities. This year, one of the recipients is Keaton Fuller at Prince of Peace Catholic School, but the school has decided to bar the Foundation to present the award at graduation. The Catholic Diocese of Davenport claims that its policy prevents an organization with a position contrary to church teachings to present at the school. Fuller has drafted a letter expressing how stigmatized he feels about the decision:
I have never felt as invalidated and unaccepted as I have upon hearing the news that the scholarship that I have worked so hard for not just in the application process, but also in my deportment and actions over the years, would not be recognized in the way that it should at the graduation ceremony. It is difficult to understand how after I have spent thirteen years at this school and worked hard during all of them, I would be made to feel that my accomplishments are less than everybody else’s. This whole ordeal has been incredibly hurtful, and I am even sadder that this will be one of my last experiences to remember my high school years by.
This is a teachable moment for Prince of Peace to stand up against rejecting and invalidating the accomplishments of any student. Please help me by respectfully requesting that this decision be reversed. Share your thoughts about why all students deserve to be treated with respect and dignity at Prince of Peace.
An accompanying Change.org petition urging Prince of Peace to let Fuller accept his award has already garnered over 3,700 signatures. Rather than upholding Catholic teachings, the supposed policy seeks to erase LGBT students and their contributions to society. The school should be proud to have an accomplished graduate like Keaton Fuller and ashamed that it would even consider ostracizing him for his success.
Watch a local news report about the controversy: