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Plan for ‘traditional’ prom backfires as group faces firestorm of criticism

'It Gets Better' founder Dan Savage calls for teacher's firing for saying gays have no purpose and equating LGBT teens to 'special needs' kids
Monday, February 11, 2013
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The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and activist Dan Savage, founder of the “It Gets Better” project, joined a chorus of LGBT advocates from across the country in condemning a group of students and parents in Sullivan, Ind., who met Sunday to discuss plans for a high school prom that would exclude gay and lesbian students.

As LGBTQ Nation reported Sunday, the group met at Sullivan First Christian Church to plan their “traditional” prom after Sullivan High School officials, responding to an inquiry, indicated that same-sex couples would be permitted the April 27 prom as would any other couple.

Diana Medley (via WTWO-TV)

Among the attendees at the planning meeting was Diana Medley, a special-education teacher at another school, North Central Junior/Senior High School, in nearby Farmersburg, Ind., who told WTWO-TV that the idea of LGBT teens attending the prom was “offensive to us,” adding that she believes homosexuality is a choice, and that no one is born gay.

Medley then said that gays served no purpose in life, and equated LGBT teens to students with developmental disabilities.

“It’s the same thing with my special-needs kids,” she told WTWO-TV. “I think God puts everyone in our lives for a reason.”

By midday on Monday, Medley’s comments were broadcast and reprinted by major networks, and daily newspapers across the country, and even overseas.

Fred Sainz, vice-president for communications at the HRC called it “disheartening to see some community members make such an explicit attempt at singling out LGBT youth for exclusion from a prom, which is a milestone event for so many young people.”

“We know that LGBT youth are twice as likely as their straight peers to face bullying, and 92 percent of them hear negative things about being gay,” said Sainz. “Our teachers and community leaders should be striving to create an environment that is inclusive and welcoming, not one that marginalizes kids and says who they are is wrong.”

“It’s unfortunate that some of the adults in Sullivan are instead sending a message to youth in the community that there is something fundamentally wrong with LGBT people,” added Sainz.

Savage also weighed in, and has celled for Medley’s termination.

“Let’s pause here to grieve for all the special education students in Sullivan, Indiana. Students with learning disabilities have it hard enough without getting stuck with a mentally challenged special ed teacher,” Savage wrote on his blog.

“You know who else has it hard enough? I imagine queer kids growing up in Sullivan, Indiana, population 4,249, have it hard enough without having to watch shit like this on the evening news.”

[...]

“Take a good look at the condescending, hateful smirk that spreads across Medley’s face when she was asked if gay people have a purpose in life … and then imagine you’re a gay kid in special ed in Sullivan and this hateful bigot is your teacher.”

The “traditional” prom supporters launched a Facebook group “2013 Sullivan Traditional Prom,” but it quickly vanished Sunday night. An alternate page has been created by supporters of an LGBT-inclusive prom, and has gained over 14,000 “likes” in just 24 hours.

Officials at Sullivan High School and the Southwest School Corporation did not respond to messages seeking comment on the group’s plan.

There has also been no statement by officials at North Central Junior/Senior High School or from the Northeast School Corporation, where Medley is employed.

A petition at Change.org is calling for her to be fired.

Dale Wise, senior minister at Sullivan First Christian Church, however, was quick to distance himself from the group’s plan. He told WTWO-TV that his church “has no involvement” in the matter, and that the group only used the church as a meeting place.

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