Wednesday, June 10, 2015

ACLU Condemns Privacy Violation of Gay Valedictorian’s Rights

The ACLU and the family of a college student who committed suicide after being ridiculed on social media five years ago for being gay have condemned a Colorado charter school.
Most attention focused on the school, Twin Peaks Charter Academy of Longmont, for refusing to let its valedictorian give his valedictorian speech after posting a perfect grade score.
The school was upset with 18-year-old Evan Young because he planned to declare that he is gay in his speech.
The school’s principal, B.J. Buchmann, called his parents and told Young’s father that his son would not be allowed to speak because he planned to talk about his sexual preference.
The parents did not know Young was gay.
“It was outrageous enough that Twin Peaks Charter Academy High School did not allow valedictorian Evan Young to deliver his valedictory address at graduation ceremonies because he planned to openly
state that he is gay. … But even worse, Principal Buchmann called Evan’s parents before the ceremony and outed him as gay.  Even though Evan planned to publicly state his identity as gay, he should have been able to say it first to his parents on his own terms.  Principal Buchmann’s conduct was insensitive, disrespectful of Evan’s privacy, and could have led to serious harm without knowing how Evan or his parents would react.  It is ironic that the school was not willing to let Evan state a personal fact about himself in his graduation speech but felt free to share that same fact to his parents without his consent,” said Nathan Woodliff-Stanley, Colorado ACLU executive director.
Outings of gay students have led to violent incidents across the nation, including some deaths. Young’s parents accepted the news with no worries.
On Sept. 20, 2010, Tyler Clementi, an accomplished violinist, jumped off the George Washington Bridge after a roommate outed him on social media. On CBS Sunday Morning, Clementi’s parents said it still hurts.
His brother, in an interview, said of the case involving valedictorian Young: "For a young LGBT person the realization of one's sexuality can be a scary and difficult discovery. There is so much inner turmoil that goes into learning to love and accept oneself. The act of coming out and sharing this information with the people in one's life and community is a brave one, but it is also a hard thing to do for many of us. Every individual LGBT person has the right to determine when and to whom they come out. People deserve the right to make that decision for themselves, when they are ready to do it, and that choice needs to be respected."
Like his younger brother, James is gay. He only told his parents after Tyler, who like Evan Young was 18,  jumped.
Clementi and his parents founded a foundation to fight bullying and protect privacy rights. They were interviewed last weekend on CBS Sunday,  ahead of a full week of activities honoring Tyler.
Young told the Advocate: "I think what it mainly showed is that he didn't have a lot of sympathy for me, or someone in my position. He didn't understand how personal a thing it was, and that I wasn't just going to share it with people randomly, for no reason. I thought it was very inconsiderate for him to do something like that, especially without asking me first."
It remained unclear whether Buchmann had violated federal and state laws by revealing information by someone 18-years-old or older without his/her consent.
The rights of parents to have information about even their minor parents have been restricted in some cases because harm could come from the disclosures.
The decision to ban Young from speaking has also been criticized by U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, a gay, who represents nearby Boulder. The school is in Longmont.
The Boulder Daily Camera reported criticism was so intense the school set up a fundraising campaign to prepare for a lawsuit.
The plans were dropped when a fundraising site decided it would not facilitate it. The family has made clear they are not suing anyone. Young had intended to out himself, on his own terms.
The question remains whether the privacy violation, if one occurred, could threaten the charter school’s standing. The public school district, St. Vrain, has some control over it.
The St. Vrain School District met Wednesday night and commended Twin Peaks for agreeing to an investigation that is “sufficiently broad to determine if there is a pattern or practice of discrimination towards students or faculty based upon sexual preference.” Board President Bob Smith said board members retain the retain to come to their own conclusions, the Daily Camera reported.
The district personally honored Young for his "outstanding achievement."

At least one student, speaking at the meeting, said she had been bullied and harassed after coming out and officials did little about it.
Here is the schedule of events hosted by the Clementis this week: Tomorrow, June 11th. I will be in Albany New York, delivering a key note address of film screening Matt Shepard is a “Friend of Mine”:
Saturday, June 13th is the New York City premiere of Tyler's Suite: (a new piece of contemporary music by several famous composers)
And Sunday June 14th. My entire family will be at North Jersey Pride in Maplewood NJ:

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