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Tennessee: Where Principals Are Anti-Gay Bullies, Too

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By HVnews on October 5, 2011

The state that brought you “Don’t Say Gay” prepares a sequel: “Don’t Wear Gay Either.”

Chris Sigler, a 17-year-old senior at Sequoyah High School in Madisonville, TN was allegedly shoved, bumped in the chest and verbally harassed by his principal last week for wearing a T-shirt in support of efforts to establish a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) club, according to the ACLU.

A little bit of back story first: Senior Nathan Carroll was attempting to start a Gay-Straight Alliance club at Sequoyah High. After starting a petition in the school for the GSA, Nathan was threatened with suspension if he continued to pursue the founding of that club. According to Talk About Equality, Principal Maurice Moser claimed “the only reason the GSA was not possible was due to the fact they couldn’t find a faculty sponsor.” Except, Moser then admitted he usually helped students find a faculty sponsor, but in this case, when pressed for reason why he wasn’t helping Carroll, Moser “became very flustered and combative.”

Fast forward to last week: Chris Sigler showed up to school on Tuesday wearing a T-shirt that said “GSA: We’ve got your back.” He was asked by a teacher to cover up his T-shirt. Sigler knew he had a right to wear the T-shirt, so on Friday he wore it again and resisted a request to remove the shirt.

According to the ACLU this is what happened next:

Sigler says that Moser then ordered all students out of the classroom, except for Sigler’s sister Jessica, who refused to leave. According to both students, Moser then grabbed Sigler’s arm, shoved him, and chest-bumped him repeatedly while asking “Who’s the big man now?” Sigler’s mother reported that when she arrived at the school, she saw her son seated in a desk with Moser leaning over him and shouting in Sigler’s face. The Siglers filed a report about the incident that afternoon with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department.

“Who’s the big man now?” Moser must be gunning for King of the Size Queens contest.

Assistant Director of Schools Tim Blankenship sent this statement in an email to WBIR: “The Monroe County School System is aware of the alleged accusations. We have received written statements from all eyewitnesses. Our documentation clearly indicated that there are always two sides to every story. We’ll gladly provide more information as it becomes available.”

Not exactly forthcoming. Here’s the local news station’s report:

“All I want is to have a GSA at my school to help stop the bullying against gays and lesbians and their friends who support them,” Chris Sigler said. “The shirt was a way to use my voice and show my support for the club. The way I was treated shows even more why we need a GSA here.”

The ACLU has sent a demand letter to the school district demanding that they let students wear clothing in “peaceful demonstration” for the GSA by October 11, 2011.

“If we don’t get a satisfactory response from the school district by Tuesday, October 11th, we fully anticipate reviewing all of our legal options, including filing for a temporary restraining order in Federal court,” explained Legal Representative for the ACLU in Tennessee, Tricia Hertzfeld.

It’s worth noting that this is the same state which recently passed the highly controversial Senate Bill 49, a galactically stupid piece of legislation dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill that ensures the state’s teachers cannot even mention homosexuality in classes from kindergarten through eighth grade.

While there’s no direct correlation between the alleged events at Sequoyah High and the SB 49 bill, it stands to reason that anti-LGBT sentiment runs deep in the state, a notion that Talk About Equality hints at: “Sources say that the anti-gay hatred in Monroe County runs deep. One source claimed that churches in the area were telling parishioners to fight the GSA as hard as they can. Another source indicated that religious corruption has dictated governmental affairs there for a long time,” the site notes.

We’ll follow-up on whether the club gets started, whether the principal is suspended or cleared of wrong-doing and more. The Tennessee Equality Project has created a Change.org petition demanding a full and fair investigation into the assault. Allegedly, when the Monroe County Sheriff questioned individuals involved in the incident, he left out the only non-participatory witness, Chris’ sister. That seems a bit strange, but maybe the sheriff had his reasons for doing so.

Check out the full ACLU demand letter on Page 2 below

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