Human Rights Commission writes to Virginia Beach asking for apology from VBCPS after canceling event

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Virginia Beach City Council Member Shannon Kane reads Human Rights Commission vice chairman Raj Islam's letter at city council's meeting Tuesday. (Justin Belichis)
Virginia Beach city council member Shannon Kane reads Human Rights Commission vice chairman Raj Islam’s letter at its meeting Tuesday. (Justin Belichis)

In a letter to Mayor Will Sessoms and city council, the Virginia Beach Human Rights Commission has asked Virginia Beach City Public Schools to issue a public apology and give a statement of support for the Cox High School gay-straight alliance club, and all VBCPS LGBTQ students.

Raj Islam, vice chairman of the VBHRC, wrote the letter and Virginia Beach city council member Shannon Kane read it at city council’s meeting Tuesday. No one in the room made comment.

“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,” Islam writes in the letter.

Cox High School administration canceled an LGBTQ educational event Dec. 4, less than 24 hours before it was scheduled to occur Dec. 5, citing the “Equal Access Act” as the reason it was postponed.

Islam’s letter states that the VBHRC is concerned the act was applied because of the nature of the gay-straight alliance club, organizing the assembly and the content it would have covered may have been controversial to some.

The issue was the topic of discussion at a VBHRC meeting last Thursday. Cox High School’s gay-straight alliance club is scheduled to host an event Jan. 30 at 6 p.m. titled ““Love is Love: A Celebration of Gay-Straight Alliance”

“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,” the letter says.