A walk-out occurred yesterday at a Colorado Christian high school that recently made national headlines when its volleyball coach said he was forced by senior school officials to resign after they found out he was gay.
Around 50 students at Valor Christian High School in Denver staged the walk-out yesterday afternoon, pledging their support for the coach, Inoke Tonga, and excoriating their school for using Christianity as a basis to ostracize LGBTQ staff and students.
Footage of the walk-out can be seen below.
High School Students Walk Out Of Class To Protest Valor Christian Coach's Dismissal Over Sexual Orie youtu.be
Students at the walk-out were deeply angered by the school's actions.
Speaking to CBS Denver, sixteen-year-old Lucy Sarkissian, who helped organize the protest, was furious with what she called her school administrators' "disgusting" conduct, and said she was angry on behalf of not just Tonga, but every LGBTQ student at Valor High.
"[It] broke my heart. To hear that they called him a danger to the school, I knew that for every queer teen who's sitting at the school right now to hear they were a danger breaks their heart."
The conflict at Valor Christian High School first made international headlines when Tonga went public about his resignation in a lengthy Facebook post that paints a bracing picture of the way he was treated by school staff and administrators.
What Tonga described hues more closely to a scolding than a meeting.
"I sat in that room for an hour and a half being belittled by men who knew nothing about who I am, what I've done in life, what obstacles I've overcome, the understanding I have of the living scriptures, and more importantly the love I have for my saviour and lord, God."
Shortly after Tonga's story broke, another former employee of the school, lacrosse coach Lauren Benner, came forward about her own experience being pushed out of her job because administrators found out she is a lesbian. She described the meeting that ensued as "shocking" and said she was "bombarded with ignorant and irrelevant statements."
LGBTQ students have not been spared the Valor administration's judgment either. A trans student at the school told CBS Denver that he, too, was pulled into a private meeting similar to Tonga's in which he was told he would "have to present as female" if he wished to remain at the school.
On social media, many people were firmly on the Valor students' side, and were outraged by the school's treatment of Tonga and its other LGBTQ staff and students.
Despite the uproar, the school has remained firm in its stance, saying in a statement that Tonga had "misrepresented" the situation and that "separation is appropriate" because his "beliefs pertaining to sexuality and marriage" run counter to the school's.