WYTHEVILLE, Va. – Some high school students in Wythe County are demanding an apology from an elected official after they said he personally attacked them for being gay.
County supervisor Stacy Terry made the post on Facebook last month which went viral in the community, receiving both support and criticism. At Tuesday night’s board meeting the board received an earful from students, supporters, and family, in what a board member say was likely the largest crowd they’d seen in a long time.
It started after Terry posted on his political Facebook page questioning the rights of gay students to meet at the Gender-Sexuality Alliance Club during school hours, while incorrectly saying that a Christian affiliated club was not allowed to meet during school hours. Terry also alluded to gay students being part of the “collapse of humanity,” said he’d vote his “Christian values” when it comes to budgets and questioned what he considers a lack of tolerance for Christianity.
In Terry’s Facebook post, he attached a photo of a rainbow sticker with words in Spanish that mean safe space. That sticker is on the door of Rural Retreat High School language teacher Megan Patrick, who was first to address the board.
“They felt your hate sir, but they’ve also felt so much love in this community and we know that love will win," Patrick said to a standing ovation from supporters.
The Facebook post received about 1,500 shares and hundreds of comments. This is a copy of what he posted.
"In the past week I have had several parents reach out to me about a concern in our school system. I have met and spoken with the superintendent along with the principal of the school.
Let me preface this post with I am not homophobic or against anyone based on their sexual preferences or orientation. Additionally I am a huge supporter of education, but I am very much against indoctrination!￼￼￼￼
Here is my issue. I am sick and tired of hearing folks hide behind tolerance and equality!￼￼ My burning question is where is the tolerance and equality for Christianity and God￼. Over the past couple of years our schools have taken down the prayer plaques at both Spiller elementary school and Fort Chiswell middle school.￼ But we have a gay, lesbian, and transgender club in our schools!￼ The photo on the right is of a classroom in one of our county high schools. It is a gay pride flag.. Translated to English it says safe space. I want to know where the classroom is with a picture of a cross and Bible that says safe space?￼￼ ￼
There is a prayer club at the high school, but it has to meet before school hours. I just heard from the principal and the prayer club also meets on club day. The gay club meets during normal school hours on club day.￼ when inquiring about this the superintendent explained to me that gay, lesbian, and transgender is a lifestyle, and Christianity is not a lifestyle but a religion.
Folks welcome to the collapse of humanity. we bend over backwards to support anti-biblical values in our school systems, while we fight with every last dying breath to keep God out.
In closing I want to assure everyone who voted for me and supported me I am a huge supporter of education, however when it comes time to vote for budgets I will be voting my Christian values and principles.￼￼￼￼"
Rolland Cook is another board member and also the principal at Rural Retreat High School. He said the part about the prayer club not being able to meet during school like the GSA was not true, and that the school supports all students.
“Once I saw it I called him and talked to him and corrected him and that’s when he made the change and said they all get to meet on equal time. I just don’t like things misrepresented," Cook said.
Wythe County Schools Superintendent Scott Jefferies said under the Equal Access Act all clubs are given the same rules, they’re allowed to meet on club day for 20 minutes once every few weeks. He said that Patrick is allowed to have the sticker on her door, and that the school supports all the clubs at the school as they support and foster growth and development for students.
Many took significant offense to Terry linking gay kids the “collapse of humanity” and stating that he will vote his “Christian values" during budget decisions.
“My daughter did not choose to be gay, we are Christians, we’ve been in church since the day she was born, she went to Christian pre-school, we have values and we have morals, but I feel like this post was made out of hate, just simply for my daughter being born and being who she is and to say that she’s not a Christian because she’s gay?" parent Shannon Doby asked. “I don’t agree with that and I don’t agree with your post."
Students held hands and fought tears as a handful of people spoke in favor of Terry, including Kendra Eastwood, who said everyone has it all wrong.
“(Terry) has known since we went to high school together that I am a lesbian,” Eastwood said. “So for everyone to get up here and say he’s homophobic and he does not like gay people, that is completely false and unfounded.”
Others directly fell back on religion, saying that it has been unfairly stripped from the community.
“What you (Terry) have done is right, and hearing this bashing in here the way they’ve growed (sic) up and everything, I growed (sic) up with polio when I was 3-years-old, did I go out here and commit suicide? No I called on the good lord to help take care of me,” Wytheville resident Sharon King said speaking about statistics presented by another speaker that LGBTQ kids were at greater risk for self-harm. “I know what I have been through, and what they’ve been through, they brought on themself."
One speaker called for a recall petition, claiming that Terry misused his position in office as defined under state law. Patrick said she doesn’t think the group will go in that direction, however.
Board chairman Brian Vaught said the board did not have the power to remove or censure Terry after a number of speakers asked for the board to take action. However, some board members have shared their own opinions about the situation. Cook has voiced support for the students, while vice chairwoman Ryan Lawson posted on her political Facebook page that she would never let a discrimination matter impact how she voted on a budget and reminded people to remember one person does not speak for the entire board.
Terry declined an interview with 10 News but did give a brief statement before exiting the dias for a recess.
“I appreciate everybody coming out on both sides and I thank people for coming out and showing their passion and that’s it," Terry said. "I do appreciate people coming out.”
The students intend to bring their concerns before the school board at its meeting later this week.