After Cox HS canceled anti-bullying LGBTQ event, VA Beach HRC asks school to apologize to students
Ever since Cox High School abruptly canceled an event aimed to address anti-LGBTQ bullying, members of the Virginia Beach community have come together in the hopes of addressing the issue.
Enter the city’s Human Rights Comission. Established in 1990 after an annual gathering of historically Black sororities and frats was opposed by local merchants but held anyway, leaving the ocean front in ruins after attendees clashed with the national guard, the VBHRC has worked to heal the city’s image as a friendly destination for all people.
So it’s actions like what happened at Cox that make the commission take steps to let people know the city is trying to make things right.
“My biggest concern was the speed of the cancelation,” said Raj Islam, a member of the commission for three years. “On a Sunday, canceling an event for the next day, that was a little too quick. And that raised our eyebrows, definitely.”
Islam and the comission have penned a letter to VA Beach City council condeming the actions of the school as well as asking them to apologize to the students involved in the event. The letter will be read before City Council at tonight’s meeting.
Take a look at the full text of the letter below:
The Honorable Mayor, William D. Sessoms, Jr.
Members of City Council
Dear Mayor and Council Members:
The Virginia Beach Human Rights Commission would like to express their disappointment and concern with the abrupt cancelation and subsequent postponement of the Cox High School Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) Assembly on the afternoon of Sunday, December 4; less than 24 hours before the event was scheduled to occur.
The Cox High School GSA Assembly was created by students in response to an anti-gay bullying incident at the school. The student members of the Cox GSA acted in an appropriate manner and lead by their student advisor, followed protocol to request an assembly from School Administrators. The GSA Assembly had been planned for months. In advance of the event, School Administrators approved a script of speeches as well as a list of questions, submitted by students, for panel discussion.
The late announcement of the assembly’s postponement, following what appeared to be undue pressure from elected members of the Virginia Beach School Board, sent the wrong message to students, encouraged a culture of bullying and further marginalized an already vulnerable population. The decision also fostered misunderstanding and distrust within Cox High School and our community Virginia Beach City Public Schools have cited the “Equal Access Act” as an explanation for the postponement of the Assembly. It is well known that club-led assemblies occur on a regular basis in Virginia Beach Schools. The Human Rights Commission is concerned that the “Equal Access Act” was selectively and inequitably applied because the nature of the GSA club, organizing the assembly, and the content of the assembly are regarded as controversial by some.
The Virginia Beach Human Rights Commission is additionally concerned that the pervasive media coverage, related to the postponement, has purported an image of exclusivity on our City. The story has spread widely, both nationally and globally, causing embarrassment for not only Virginia Beach’s Schools, but also its populace, thus tarnishing our City’s reputation as an inclusive community where all people are welcome and respected.
It is the Commission’s hope that Virginia Beach City Public Schools accepts full responsibility for their actions, abruptly cancelling and postponing the December 5th assembly, by issuing a public apology to Cox High School students and to the citizens of Virginia Beach. Furthermore, the Commission requests a clear and unequivocal statement of support for the Cox High School Gay-Straight Alliance and all LGBT and allied students in our Virginia Beach City Public Schools without delay.
William “Cliff” Rice, Chair
Human Rights Commission
cc: VBPCS School Board
Rod Ingram, Deputy City Attorney
Regina Hilliard, Director of Human Resources
“We know that equal, fair treatment under the law is good for business, good for tourism, and good for individuals living in the Hampton Roads region.”February 16, 2017
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