Student-led LGBTQ event at Frank W. Cox High School canceled by administration

Frank W. Cox High School on Monday, December 4, 2016.
Frank W. Cox High School on Monday, December 5, 2016. (Amy Poulter)

Students who are part of the Gay-Straight Alliance at Frank W. Cox High School in Virginia Beach are looking to reschedule an event originally planned for Monday after it was canceled by school board administration on Sunday.

The event, which Hampton Roads Pride President Michael Berlucchi said would be the first of its kind in Virginia Beach, was educational in nature and would allow students to create a dialogue about the LGBTQ community and related issues.

In an email sent out by Berlucchi on Sunday afternoon, Berlucchi said that administration canceled the event because student clubs are not able to hold events during school hours.

According to Berlucchi, recently elected school board member Victoria Manning sent an email to other board members in which she objected to the event taking place during instructional hours and that content of the event was “inappropriate.”

“The event was approved by the principal, and the school system sent out a media release about it last week,” Berlucchi said. “It’s disappointing to me that one of Manning’s first actions further marginalizes vulnerable students.”

Though the cancellation of the event is a disappointment to Berlucchi, who was scheduled to speak to students on Monday, he said he is confident that the administration would work with the GSA to reschedule the event.

When questioned about the email to school board officials, Manning would neither confirm or deny its existence. In another email, Manning provided the following statement:

“It is my understanding that a statement will be forthcoming from the school administration regarding their decision to cancel the Gay Pride Assembly at Cox. As a school board member-elect, I have zero tolerance of bullying or discrimination of students based on their race, religion, sexual preference, or any other factors. Furthermore, I fully support the rights of ALL students and citizens of Virginia Beach and it is critical that the policies and regulations of Virginia Beach Schools be fairly and equally applied.”

Daniel D. Edwards, chairman of the school board of the city of Virginia Beach, issued a statement on Monday afternoon. According to Edwards, the city schools are not “an open forum for the purposes of public expression during the regular school day or when education-oriented activities are conducted on school property” and that there are limitations to when student-led groups can meet or hold events.

In the statement, Edwards said that the school’s decision was not meant to marginalize the students in the GSA, but part of the plan to bring more students into a conversation at a later date.

The high school’s administration and the superintendent met with students from the GSA on Monday to discuss future options for the group’s event. Edwards said details on those plans would be released tomorrow.

 

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Amy Poulter has lived in more than a dozen cities – including New York, San Antonio, Austin, Orlando and Jersey City – but she was born right here in the Southside. Amy graduated from Old Dominion University and worked for The Virginian-Pilot and Princess Anne Independent News before joining Southside Daily. Before working as a multimedia journalist, she was a professional chef and musician. In her free time, Amy enjoys listening to music, reading, spending time at the beach and chasing her two pups around the park.