A Tennessee high school principal resigned on Thursday after telling gay students "you're going to hell" and a pregnant student "your life is over," according to student reports. The principal also allegedly demanded that students pray.
At Haywood County schools, "physical contact" is a minor infraction, but during a school assembly on Feb. 9, Dorothy Bond, the principal of Haywood High School in Brownville, said that gay students who engaged in PDA --public displays of affection -- would be suspended for two months, assigned to another school, or expelled, according to students there. She also purportedly said gay students were "not on God's path" and were "ruining their lives."
One gay student, who was in the assembly, is said to have tearfully called her friend and fellow student, Amber Whittiemore. "At first she was talking about PDA, and she turned around and she directly pointed to the gay people and said, if you're gay you're going to hell and if you're pregnant, your life is over," Whittiemore told ABC 24.
This incident follows a spate of anti-gay activity in Tennessee. The "Don't Say Gay" bill, which would ban elementary and middle schools from talking about sexual orientation, passed the state Senate last year and was approved by the House education subcommittee a few weeks ago. Last year, in his campaign to stop the formation of a gay-straight alliance at her school, one high school principal allegedly threw a straight student against a wall for wearing a T-shirt in support of the idea. State lawmakers also recently proposed a bill that would protect students who bully their gay peers, if they do so for religious reasons.
There have been two recent gay teen suicides in Tennessee that have gained public attention. In January, Phillip Parker, a gay 14-year-old, killed himself and left a handwritten note in his trash can, "Please help me mom," after reportedly enduring mental and physical torment from peers. In December, a gay high school senior, Jacob Rogers, dropped out of school after what his friends describe as four years of bullying, and took his own life.
After Bond's assembly, students complained to the American Civil Liberties Union, which sent a letter to Haywood County Schools Superintendent Marlon King, asking the school system to express views friendly to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, and to let students know they have a constitutional right to identify as gay. The Human Rights Campaign, the country's largest LGBT civil rights organization, launched a petition against Bond's remarks, which garnered 5,000 signatures in four hours.
Bond resigned later that day. The school system said in a statement: "The Haywood County Board of Education acknowledges its student body's right to free speech. Further, the Haywood County Board of Education strives to provide an atmosphere of tolerance and diversity while maintaining high academic standards."
The assistant principal of the school, Jerry Pryon, has been named interim principal, reports The Jackson Sun.
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