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.
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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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.
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