A teacher in a small town plans to hold a “traditional” prom that bans gay students because she believes gays have no purpose in life.
Residents and officials in Sullivan, a city of about 4,200 near the Illinois border, are feeling the fallout as they try to escape the uncomfortable spotlight.
Diana Medley, a special education teacher in a neighboring school district, says people choose to be gay and she really doesn’t understand why. Her comments have gone viral and sparked online campaigns to have her fired.
"When someone says your kid has no purpose, how do you think that makes a parent feel?" asked Annette Gross, Indiana state coordinator for Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), whose son came out at age 19.
Sullivan High School Principal David Springer said talk of the "traditional" prom began in January, after a student began circulating a petition demanding that gays be allowed to participate in the grand march at Sullivan's April 27 prom. The "traditional" prom would not be sanctioned by the district and wouldn't be held at the school.
The school has never banned same-sex couples from the prom.
But some say that a “traditional” prom speaks to a larger climate in which gay students fear being bullied and aren't welcome.
Aaron Gettinger, a 20-year-old Stanford University student who graduated from Sullivan High in 2011, said he isn't surprised by the push for a "traditional" prom that would ban gay students. He said he was bullied daily because he is gay and encountered viewpoints similar to those espoused by Medley.
"It's just the way that it is," he said. "It's part of a way of thinking that the rest of the country needs to know still exists and goes on."
Springer said his staff has been inundated with calls and emails about Medley, whom he noted doesn't work for his school. She teaches in the Northeast School Corp., a neighboring district.
The district issued a statement this week saying Medley was "expressing her First Amendment rights" and that "the views expressed are not the views of the Northeast School Corporation and/or the Board of Education."