Education Leaders Criticize School Board’s Decision Against LGBTQ+ Advocate’s Appearance

Education Leaders Criticize School Board’s Decision Against LGBTQ+ Advocate’s Appearance

A Pennsylvania school board’s decision to cancel a forthcoming appearance by actor and children’s book author Maulik Pancholy was ill-advised and sent a negative message, particularly to the LGBTQ+ community, according to education officials.

A Cumberland Valley School District board member expressed worries about Pancholy’s advocacy and “lifestyle” before the board voted 5-0 Monday to cancel his attendance at a May 22 assembly at Mountain View Middle School. Pancholy, who is gay, was set to speak out against bullying.

In addition to their reservations about Pancholy, some board members cited the district’s policy against organizing overtly political events, according to press reports. The regulation was implemented in response to criticism that the district hosted a rally for Donald Trump during his 2016 presidential campaign.

District Superintendent Mark Blanchard and nine other senior leaders, including assistant superintendents and district-level directors of technology, curriculum, legal affairs, human resources, student services, and special education, wrote to the board, faculty, and staff on Thursday, arguing that Pancholy’s speech should have been permitted. Pancholy’s representatives provided The Associated Press with a copy of the letter.

The education authorities claimed they were not given “a real opportunity” to answer concerns or provide direction concerning the event, which was intended to emphasize the value of treating all people equally.

The administrators also stated that the school board’s action had “significant ramifications for our school community, especially for our students and staff who are members of the LGBTQ+ community.” They also stated that the actor’s sexual identity was considered in the decision, implying that “Mr. Pancholy’s personhood was reduced to a single aspect, and his ability to communicate a message of anti-bullying and hate was discredited.”

On Friday, the Associated Press sent emails to individual school board members seeking reaction.

Pancholy, 48, is an award-winning actor known for his appearances on the television shows “30 Rock” and “Weeds,” as well as his portrayal of Baljeet in the Disney animated series “Phineas & Ferb.” He has also written children’s novels. In 2014, then-President Barack Obama appointed him to the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, where he co-founded a campaign to eliminate AAPI bullying.

Pancholy’s presentation was planned by the school’s leadership committee, which chooses an author each year to deliver a “unique educational experience for students,” according to the district. The school board’s decision to cancel Pancholy’s presentation drew outrage from some parents, students, and community members, who labeled it “homophobic.” Some people have begun online petitions demanding that Pancholy’s appearance be reinstated.

Pancholy stated on social media this week that his school visits are intended “to let all young people know that they’re seen.”

“To let them know that they matter.”

He also stated that one of the reasons he became a novelist was that as a child, he never saw himself portrayed in literature. “That is the power of books.” “They develop empathy,” Pancholy wrote. “I wonder why a school board is so afraid of that?”

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