Under pressure from Congressman, school seeks review of ban on gay student’s speech

Twin Peak Charter School senior Evan Young reads his valedictorian speech on May 31, 2015 in Boulder, Colo. The Twin Peaks Charter Academy that barred Young, a gay valedictorian from coming out during his commencement speech denies it discriminated against the teen, but says no discussion of sexual orientation is appropriate for a graduation ceremony.

Twin Peak Charter School senior Evan Young reads his valedictorian speech on May 31, 2015 in Boulder, Colo. The Twin Peaks Charter Academy that barred Young, a gay valedictorian from coming out during his commencement speech denies it discriminated against the teen, but says no discussion of sexual orientation is appropriate for a graduation ceremony. Jonathan Castner, The Daily Camera (AP)

Twin Peak Charter School senior Evan Young reads his valedictorian speech on May 31, 2015 in Boulder, Colo. The Twin Peaks Charter Academy that barred Young, a gay valedictorian from coming out during his commencement speech denies it discriminated against the teen, but says no discussion of sexual orientation is appropriate for a graduation ceremony.Jonathan Castner, The Daily Camera (AP)

Twin Peak Charter School senior Evan Young reads his valedictorian speech on May 31, 2015 in Boulder, Colo. The Twin Peaks Charter Academy that barred Young, a gay valedictorian from coming out during his commencement speech denies it discriminated against the teen, but says no discussion of sexual orientation is appropriate for a graduation ceremony.

DENVER — Under pressure from a U.S. Congressman, the Colorado school that blocked a valedictorian from delivering a commencement speech in which he planned to come out as gay has asked outside lawyers to review what happened.

In a letter on behalf of the school to U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), Denver lawyer Barry Arrington said Twin Peaks Charter Academy in Longmont is hiring a law firm to look into the case. Polis had called for an independent investigation after school officials initially announced their probe would be internal.

U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (R-Colo.)AP

U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.)

The school denies that it discriminated against Evan Young, 18, and says no discussion of sexual orientation is appropriate for a graduation ceremony.

Evan and his father, Don Young, said they weren’t notified until just a few minutes before the ceremony that Evan wouldn’t be allowed to speak or be recognized as valedictorian.

In a letter released Tuesday, Twin Peaks announced it was conducting an internal review of what happened after Polis first requested a probe.

Polis requested the probe in a letter to the school last Friday, citing media reports that Young was not allowed to give his speech at his May 16 graduation solely on the basis of his sexual orientation and was denied recognition of his academic achievements.

School board president Kathy DeMatteo, writing to Polis, said officials do not “believe that a discussion of a student’s sexual orientation – no matter what that sexual orientation happens to be – is a proper matter for a commencement address. It beggars belief that you do.”

DeMatteo said Young was barred from delivering his speech not because he is gay but because of his “apparent intention to make a mockery” of the ceremony, and said his academic achievements were recognized in the event’s program and at another gathering.

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In a statement Wednesday, Polis called for an independent investigation, saying school officials already had made up their minds and were “throwing Evan under the bus.”

The events in Longmont contrast with a decision by another Colorado school to allow its high school valedictorian to come out in her graduation speech.

During her weekend speech in Carbondale, Roaring Fork High School graduate Emily Bruell received a standing ovation. Her principal, expressing concern about the high rates of suicide and other problems encountered by teens labeled as different, praised Bruell’s courage and said her speech would help all his students feel safe and accepted at school.

Young delivered his speech on Sunday at an event sponsored by the LGBT advocacy group Out Boulder. (Video here.)

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