The Cox High School Gay-Straight Alliance assembly that was cancelled one day before it was to occur has been rescheduled.
This past Tuesday, the school announced the event will now be held outside of school hours at 6 PM on January 30.
The school is also planning a diversity and acceptance rally in February where multiple student groups will discuss respect and inclusiveness. This assembly will include Gay-Straight Alliance students as well as members of other student clubs and representatives from community organizations.
The original assembly was organized a few months ago after an anti-gay bullying situation at Cox High School. The event was approved by Cox High School with fill knowledge of the School Board for at least one month. All parties had been provided with a script of speeches and a list of student questions submitted for panel discussion in advance of the event.
In a statement after Tuesday’s announcement, Cox High School Principal Dr. Randi Riesbeck said, “Cox High School supports all students regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, disability, national origin or sexual orientation. Educating all students in a safe, accepting environment is a priority at our school, and we encourage and applaud our students’ inclusive efforts.”
On Monday, school board chairman, Dan Edwards, also released a statement on the matter.
He said in part, “It is important to note the School Board has not met to discuss this matter and no member of the School Board asked or directed the principal or administration to take any action, as in the case of all administrative matters.”
The cancellation followed an e-mail sent by newly elected board member Victoria Manning to Chairman Dan Edwards over the weekend with concern about the event.
In Manning’s email, she said that allowing the Gay-Straight Alliance “to hold an assembly during instructional time could set a precedent that other clubs should be allowed to do the same.”
“Additionally, this is a controversial subject and I do not believe it is appropriate to hold a gay pride event during instructional time,” Manning wrote. “I fully support the gay club holding meetings after school but not during instructional time.”
“I would like to ask that this issue be addressed before the event on Monday,” she wrote.
Edwards said, “There was absolutely no relationship between her and her email and the postponement of that assembly.”
Superintendent Aaron Spence also addressed the assembly at Tuesday night’s meeting.
He said their decision was not to underscore the GSA’s message of the need for acceptance and understanding. Instead, they were following school policy that does not allow events organized by student-led groups and clubs to happen during instructional time.
Janet Moore, a Hampton Roads Pride board member who also attended the meeting, says while the school board might have had good intentions, the policy excuse is a defense mechanism.
“I just think unfortunately it was fear, they were afraid, they didn’t realize that the teachers and the principal and the students had gone to great lengths to make sure this was a quality program,” she says. “I think they’re going to be proud of it when they have it, I’m sure they’ll be a lot more attention to it now, so maybe that’s the whole meaning behind this.”