Vestal School Board Firm, Senator's Portrait Stays
6/26/2012 (Updated 11:21:37 PM)(Source: Kate Thornton)
Tuesday night's Vestal School Board meeting was standing room only with students, teachers, parents, alumni, and Vestal community members for round two of a raging debate concerning Tennessee Senator and Vestal graduate Stacey Campfield.
Campfield was a 1986 graduate of Vestal High School and was inducted into the school prestigious"Wall of Fame" in 2008.
The Wall of Fame honors distinguished alumni of Vestal High School, but many at Tuesday night's school board meeting felt Campfield does not represent the quality of people that should be on display.
This is in reaction to remarks the conservative senator has made in the past few years concerning homosexuality and AIDS.
Campfield has been publicly quoted saying that homosexuality is harmful and that the HIV epidemic came from a single gay airline employee having sexual relations with a monkey.
Those wanting the portrait removed say Campfield's view tarnishes the school's reputation and sends the wrong message to the students and the community.
As per school board meeting regulations, a maximum of five speakers gave their reasoning behind wanting the portrait taken down. Three of them students, a father of a Wall of Fame honorees, and a teacher who identifies himself as a homosexual, Steve White.
"I do feel that the students are totally smart enough to be able to make their own decisions," said White in response to the board's decision to keep the portrait up. "But, by saying in the same token, the school board should be smart enough to make its own decision not to use people like that, to put those people up as role models up to begin with."
One of the students who approached the board was Nisha Dalvie. Dalvie first wrote about Campfield in the school's newspaper. Since then, she has gained more than 1,200 signature in an online petition to remove Campfield's portrait from the "Wall of Fame".
"It's such a simple thing. It's such a big statement for our community to take against gay bullying," said Dalvie. "To just remove his picture, to say it doesn't matter what he accomplished in the past, but the things he's doing now are not acceptable. We're not going to tolerate that."
At the end of the public comment period, school board President Kim Myers read a prepared statement reiterating that Campfield's portrait will not be taken down.
"We have heard your views and opinions. I'd like to add a point of clarification; on any issue, if someone doesn't agree or act as your want or demand, it doesn't mean they have not heard you or are not listening."- a quote from the state Myers read.
The board did make it clear they do not condone or endorse Campfield's comments on homosexuality, however the board is keeping his portrait up due to the fact that Campfield is entitled to express his views under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.
Superintendent Mark LaRoach declined comment to Fox40 at the conclusion of the meeting. He did approach the crowd to discuss the issue further.
The prepared statement also included: "Mr. Campfield's ignorant words do not accompany his photo in our school. Students are not subjected to his beliefs as they pass by in the hall. He is not, nor will be, invited or allowed to address our students."
"We believe that they recent revelations regarding Mr. Campfield's disturbing views actually present an opportunity for our students to think critically, reflect and come to their own conclusion as to this man's worth."
"Give our students the credit they deserve and have earned. The removal of his photo would not, nor would it likely cause anyone to celebrate him, insight bullying or violence by any of our students towards any group or groups of students."
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