Even after Katelyn Campbell’s principal allegedly threatened her for speaking out against a “slut-shaming” abstinence assembly recently held at her public high school, the West Virginia teen refused to back down. Her brave stance against the dangerous misinformation perpetrated by abstinence-only education, as well as her perseverance in the face of opposition from the school’s officials, has inspired thousands of people across the country to stand behind the high school senior in support.
After George Washington High School hosted conservative religious speaker Pam Stenzel to advocate for “God’s plan for sexual purity” at a mandatory assembly, Campbell notified the ACLU. Once the press began taking interest in the situation, Campbell’s principal wasn’t pleased — in fact, she says he threatened to call Wellesley College, where she has been accepted to study in the fall, to tell them that Campbell is a “backstabber” who has “bad character.” That threat ended up badly backfiring. Here’s what has unfolded over the past several days:
Wellesley College released public statements welcoming Campbell to campus in the fall. After news broke that Katelyn’s principal allegedly suggested he planned to call Wellesley to complain about Katelyn, a spokesperson for the college provided the following statement to ThinkProgress: “Wellesley College is delighted to welcome Katelyn Campbell as a member of the Class of 2017 this fall. The Wellesley community fosters a living and learning environment where diverse opinions, ideas, and perspectives are not only welcomed, they are encouraged.” The academic institution also welcomed Katelyn with supportive messages on Twitter and Facebook.
A Wellesley College alumni group started a petition to applaud Campbell. A group called the Wellesley Sisters began a petition on Change.org to let Campbell know she’ll fit right on in campus in the fall. “In reality, your actions prove that the College couldn’t be a better fit,” the petition reads. “At Wellesley you will find students just like you: strong, independent, intelligent women who speak their minds and work to make the world a more just and equitable place.” It currently has over 1,200 signatures.
Fellow students formed a Facebook page called “Friends of Katelyn Campbell.” The Facebook page has been verifying some of the complaints that Campbell took to the ACLU, including an image of the religious flyer used to promote the event at the public high school. It has since extended beyond West Virginia, as people across the country have flooded the page with messages of solidarity. “Katelyn is an inspiration to anyone who treasures the First Amendment and values honor and courage,” reads one recent post from an ally in Indiana.
Students attended a local school board meeting this week to advocate on behalf of Campbell. On Thursday night, students took up the issue with the school board. Campbell’s lawyer advised her not to attend, but other advocates represented her point of view on her behalf. According to an update on the “Friends of Katelyn Campbell” page, the meeting was not necessarily productive. “Unfortunately, as was to be expected, Katelyn’s message continued to be chastised this evening,” the update stated. “Speakers on her behalf were berated to the point of tears, and one board member broke protocol to burst out that there needed to be more god in school and that Pam Stenzel ‘should speak in all schools.’ “
Strangers submitted letters of support after reading Campbell’s story. After publishing a story about Campbell earlier this week, ThinkProgress has been contacted by numerous people commending the teen’s actions and requesting her contact information to share letters of support. One reader was inspired to write an open letter that he intends to deliver to Campbell’s principal. “I wanted to congratulate you and your institution for producing such an accomplished student,” the letter reads. “Surely you must feel privileged to know that you have presided over the education and awakening of such an student as accomplished as Campbell.”