Whether or not to have a straights-only prom has embroiled Indiana’ Northeast School corporation in a national controversy, particularly because of the comments made by special education teacher Diana Medley. Not only does she believe being gay is a choice influenced by “life circumstances,” but she doesn’t even believe gay people have any sort of purpose in life. Last week, Northeast Superintendent Mark A. Baker defended Medley’s right to free speech, apparently offering no concern about the potential harm to students by such comments. Given the controversy has not died down, it seems Medley has now been placed on administrative leave and the school has also increased security measures, according to a new statement from Baker:
As many of you know and appreciate, our school corporation is continuing to manage as responsibly and respectfully as possible the fallout from comments made by an employee as she attended a meeting outside of school or a school activity.
We have conveyed our disappointment and our disagreement with these statements and have emphasized her comments do not reflect our schools’ views or opinions.
The administration and one school employee in particular at North Central Jr/Sr High School have received aggressive email messages. We are turning over to law enforcement all such communications. Further, and as a precaution, the Indiana State Police and the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Department have deemed it necessary to station an officer at our high school. Additionally, these law enforcement agencies, while they are here, are familiarizing themselves with our buildings, as is part of their regular training.
For that, we are grateful for their support of our school and our students. This matter has created some heartbreaking differences in opinion. Please know we are always going to put the safety of our students and faculty first and any disruption of our educational process will be managed quickly.
In response to our concerns for the safety and security of everyone in our buildings, we have placed the employee at the center of this concern on administrative leave.
It’s unfortunate that safety has become a concern at the school, but it’s also disappointing that the school has not taken any responsibility for the impact of Medley’s comments on students. From this statement, it seems Medley’s suspension is only for her own safety and not to protect students from her very negative message of rejection. Though the district is to be commended for distancing itself from her remarks, it’s not clear that administrators have taken any steps to improve (or even assess) the climate for LGBT students.