Irmo High principal announces resignation over Gay-Straight Alliance - - Columbia, South Carolina

Irmo High principal announces resignation over Gay-Straight Alliance

Eddie Walker Eddie Walker

IRMO, SC (WIS) - The Irmo High School Principal's announced resignation over a controversial student group is already drawing national attention.

Principal Eddie Walker told WIS News 10 his resignation won't take effect until June, 2009 - the end of the 2008-2009 school year.

Walker says it comes after he was asked to allow the creation of a Gay-Straight Alliance club at the school.

He wouldn't talk on camera with us, but we did receive a letter he wrote to the school, in which he tells his side of the story, which involves a controversial student group:

"The formation of this club conflicts with my professional  beliefs in that we do not have other clubs at Irmo High school based on sexual orientation, sexual preference, or sexual activity.  In fact our sex education curriculum is abstinence based. I feel the formation of a Gay/Straight Alliance Club at Irmo High school implies that students joining the club will have chosen to or will choose to engage in sexual activity with members of the same sex, opposite sex, or members of both sexes.
My decision to resign is a personal choice based on my professional beliefs and religious convictions. I have prayed about the decision for a period of time and I have a peace about it. I would ask that you respect my choice as I respect your choice to disagree with me on this issue. I bear no malice towards anyone involved."

[Click here to read the complete letter]

Tuesday Lexington School District Five issued a statement through Director of Community Services Buddy Price.

It says, "The federal law known as the Equal Access Act does not permit the school to discriminate against a club based on the club's purpose and viewpoint by not allowing it to form unless the purpose of the club is unlawful."

Wednesday, the district followed up with a statement from spokesperson Michelle Foster.

"Attorneys have advised the school district that prohibiting the formation of this club would most certainly result in a costly lawsuit ... The only other recourse the school district would have would be to eliminate all non-curricular clubs all together."

WIS News 10 broke the story at 11:00pm Tuesday. By Wednesday morning featured our story, and national groups started commenting on the resignation.

"It is a shame that the principal at Irmo High School in South Carolina decided to place religion-based bigotry and discrimination over his former commitment to his students and staff," said Faith In America Executive Director Brent Childers.

[Click here to read Childers' complete statement]

Irmo parents and students are also talking.

"We are not putting them like, 'ugh. You know you're lepers.' But we have to stand for what our foundation of our nation was about," says parent Brenda Enoch.

Enoch supports Walker's decision to resign. She feels the formation of the Gay/Straight Alliance club would lower values in schools that parents have fought hard to achieve.

"You stand up for what you believe in. Your principles. Don't try to change others," she says. "He has to stand for what he believes in. And if he stands for what he believes in, then yes. I feel it's just."

Ashlei Tate, who graduated from a high school in Glorida with a Gay/Straight Alliance club, compares banning groups like the GSA to racial segregation of the past.

"Everyone has equal rights. We shouldn't discriminate from what they need to do," says Ashlei Tate. "People used to make fun of and beat up gay people, just because they were different. This is actually a program to make everyone feel that they belong."

We spoke with the president of a similar club at USC, who says the formation of the club should be viewed as an outlet to help young teens express their sexual orientation.

We also spoke with another parent who said Principal Walker should have had his way and never allowed the club to form.

Lexington Five officials have not announced when they will begin searching for a new principal for the 2009-2010 school year.

Count on WIS News 10 to bring you complete updates to this developing story.

Updated by Logan Smith

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