On May 16, Evan Young looked forward to a milestone in his life: The Twin Peaks Charter Academy High student was graduating. However, the gay valedictorian’s speech, which was supposed to out his sexuality, was canceled by the school, citing a Fox News report. What is more, the principal who blocked the commencement speech also revealed to the student’s parents that he is gay before the valedictorian had an opportunity.
The Longmont senior, 18, said he made a number of edits to his planned speech as a valedictorian weeks in advance of the graduation exercises. His plans were to reveal his gay sexuality, which Young found liberating and “respectful.” Canceling that part of his speech was a total shocker to him.
GROSS: High School Cancels Gay Valedictorian’s Speech and Outs Him to His Parents http://t.co/HgsfMzStqs pic.twitter.com/GaEwrBNrMH
— Cosmopolitan (@Cosmopolitan) May 30, 2015
Young resisted when Principal BJ Buchmann told him to take out his disclosure of being gay. In response, the school valedictorian hand-wrote a letter (to prevent forwarding) to the principal and school administrators at the charter school about the impasse. According to statements made to reporters, he explained that he would not comply with the principal’s request.
“My main theme is that you’re supposed to be respectful of people, even if you don’t agree with them. I figured my gayness would be a very good way to address that. I’d told him I’m not going to remove the part where I say I’m gay, because I am. It’s important to me.”
Buchmann then contacted Don Young, the student’s father and former school board of directors member. The plan was to have the parents intervene to help thwart the valedictorian’s attempt to out his sexuality in the speech. However, a paradox occurred: the mother and father were not aware their son was gay. This didn’t set well with Evan. He thought it was a breech of privacy; he wanted to come out on his own terms.
“My parents are very liberal. I think they were totally OK with it. But I was not OK with it. 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.”
— Mike Grady (@ghostfacegrady) May 29, 2015
With just minutes before the valedictorian was supposed to take the stage and disclose to the class of 30 that he is gay in his speech, Young and his parents received official word from the school that it was canceling Evan’s participation in the programming. Additionally, the school decided not to acknowledge his accomplishments as top honors student.
Barry Arrington, an attorney representing the school explained that “[Graduation] is not a time for a student to use his commencement speech to push his personal agenda on a captive audience.”
A statement released by Twin Peaks pointed to a Supreme Court case that ruled in favor of schools to have full editorial control over communications, style, content, and activities that are school-sponsored. According to the principal, the valedictorian’s speech was not canceled because he is gay; it was due to his using the moment to inject his personal agenda.
In deciding to continue with his planned speech, which was not sponsored by the school, Young did not take into account others present, especially minor non-school guests. In short, the school maintains that the senior failed to comply with pre-screening requirements of his coming out speech.
Additionally, on a lesser note, Young apparently did not comply with uniform requirements for graduation; his sleeves were rolled up. This was not spelled out in the release.
While responses to the valedictorian’s plans to reveal his sexuality as a gay man in his speech backfired due to the school’s last-minute cancellation, Young received an outpouring of support. LGBT advocacy group Out Boulder took issue with the school. Mardi Moore, the activist group’s executive director weighed in.
“It’s wrong, and it’s not fair. The young man has all but a 4.5 GPA; he has told me that since a toddler he has worked for that honor, and they denied it.”
Despite the debacle, Young is looking forward to enrolling in Rutgers University. The school accepted his application prior to the incident at graduation.
[Photo by Jens Schlueter/Getty Images]