Alpine School District finds itself the focus of increasing attention after an assistant principal told a student's parents last week that the student was gay.
District officials have done interviews with media across the country questioning whether the assistant principal overstepped her bounds.
The controversy began with a series of incidents on Dec. 5 and 6, according to district spokeswoman Rhonda Bromley. A 14-year-old boy at Willowcreek Middle School in Lehi was showing affection with another male student during school. The boy also attended a class where each student was assigned to create an advertisement about him or herself. The ad he created was about his homosexual orientation. All the ads were being hung on the classroom wall, and the teacher asked the boy if he wanted his to be hung with the rest. The boy said yes. When a student "gave a negative response" in the hallway about the boy's sexual orientation, an adult aide alerted school administrators about potential bullying, Bromley said.
Because on that concern about bullying, on Dec. 7 the assistant principal called the student into her office. The boy told her that his parents did not know about his sexual orientation. The administrator felt the parents needed to be aware of the potential bullying and safety concerns, and called the parents into her office. At the student's request, the boy was not present when his parents were told about what had happened at school.
Within hours, a Facebook page was created titled with the boy's name, calling on officials to "end homophobic discrimination at school."
The Facebook page, which now has more than 400 likes, said that the administration had "outed" the boy to his parents and suspended him for being gay. Since then, the district has increasingly been fielding media calls from across the nation.
"The Facebook page said the boy was suspended by the school and was in trouble for being gay," Bromley said. "That is not true. His parents choose to keep him at home."
"A 14-year-old student was outed to his parents by his school's administration because they 'didn't feel his lifestyle was appropriate,' " reads the Facebook page. The boy "was pulled down to the administration office and questioned about his sexuality. Upon admitting that he was gay, he was threatened by the administration that they would tell his parents and that he couldn't be openly gay at school because 'it wasn't appropriate' or 'it makes the faculty uncomfortable.' When his parents found out, he was then told by his parents that he would be going through counseling. This is unacceptable! A student, whether gay or straight, should not have to hide who they are. A student should not have his parents told about his lifestyle by strangers. A person should have the right to discuss his personal life with his own family when he is ready."
District officials on Tuesday supported the way the assistant principal handled the situation. The boy himself had made his sexual orientation public knowledge, Bromley said, and the district had an obligation to tell the boy's parents about the potential bullying and safety concerns of the school.
"We have an obligation to work with parents," she said, noting that the district feels the incident is a learning opportunity for all students and parents about dealing with people who may be different from themselves.
The district will not tolerate bullying or the potential of bullying of a student, and the district acted to support both the boy and his parents, she said.
Since being kept home from school with his parents, a school administrator has been in direct contact with the boy over the phone to determine that the boy is safe.
• Caleb Warnock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.