When news broke that a group was trying to create a gays-free prom at Sullivan High School in Indiana, special education teacher Diana Medley’s anti-gay comments quickly became viral on the Internet. In addition to saying that homosexuality is a choice, she went so far as to say that gay people have no purpose in life. A Change.org petition with over 15,000 signatures is calling for disciplinary action, Dan Savage has called for her to be outright fired, other Indiana teachers are countering her message, and thanks to reddit, even the principal from Billy Madison has chimed in. It seems, though, that the school is not taking any action.
Superintendent Mark A. Baker released a statement Tuesday distancing the Northeast School Corporation from her position but defending her free speech:
I would like to clearly state the Northeast School Corporation has never denied any student the right to attend prom or any other Northeast School Corporation sponsored event due to their race, gender, or sexual orientation. Furthermore, the Northeast School Corporation has never denied any student access to any events sponsored by Northeast School Corporation. This includes sports, plays, musicals and any other extra-curricular activities.
In regards to the story that WTWO aired on February 10, 2013, the Northeast School Corporation employee that was interviewed was expressing her First Amendment rights. The views expressed are not the views of the Northeast School Corporation and/or the Board of Education.
These comments were expressed during a Sunday community meeting at a local church and at no time was she representing the Northeast School Corporation. The teacher was participating in a meeting with her local church congregation.
Of course Medley has the right to her fraudulent, offensive beliefs, but she also has an obligation to the safety and well-being of students that she supervises. As a special ed teacher, she is likely working with students who are already vulnerable to bullying because of their physical, mental, or learning disabilities. By publicly stating that an entire group of students don’t have a purpose in life, she compromises her trust as an educator. At the very least, remediation to help her understand the obvious harm inherent in her position should be required, if not further disciplinary action.