Retired Irmo High principal opens up about Gay-Straight Alliance - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

Retired Irmo High principal opens up about Gay-Straight Alliance opposition

Eddie Walker Eddie Walker
Eddie Walker talks to Brandi Cummings Eddie Walker talks to Brandi Cummings
Irmo High School Gay/Straight Alliance yearbook picture Irmo High School Gay/Straight Alliance yearbook picture

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - He hasn't talked about it publicly until now.  It was a decision that caused uproar in the Irmo community and made worldwide headlines.

In May 2008, then Principal Eddie Walker announced he would retire because the school district forced him to allow a Gay-Straight Alliance at Irmo High.

Walker's decision drew lots of criticism, including a protest outside of one of the school board meetings.

After two years of silence, Eddie Walker sat down with News 10's Brandi Cummings to explain things in his own words.

Eddie Walker is a dedicated educator of 31 years, who has left the career he knows so well.

Walker's reign as principal of Irmo High School is coupled with both triumph and controversy.

Although Irmo has been named among best in the nation, the world watched as the school went through its share of turmoil starting in 2008.

Walker said, "I didn't intend for it to become so public, that's why I didn't interview during that time period."

In December 2008, a student asked Walker if he would allow the formation of a Gay/Straight Alliance.

"I didn't want to approve it because all of my life, as an educator, I felt like it's been my mission to help kids and I saw this as something that could be potentially damaging or could be hurtful to kids," Walker said.

So he told the student that he would not allow the club to form.

Then, according to Walker, that student went to school district officials in protest.

The Lexington/Richland 5 School District, referring to a federal law, forced Walker to allow the club.

In response, Eddie Walker sent an email to faculty, staff and the PTSO, telling them a conflict of his professional and religious beliefs is leading him to resign June 30, 2009.

"I view the world from a biblical perspective and my view of that was that it was wrong," said Walker.

Walker said he was against the club because it was based on sex.

"I feel like sex is a choice that people make. I didn't want to get kids in a situation where they made choices as freshman that would hurt them for the rest of their life."

The school district held several meetings, as the controversy brewed worldwide.

Walker says he got calls from as far away as Israel.

Although the district allowed the club, it created an opt-out form.

Walker says he was pleased with that because it allowed parents to make the decision, not the children alone.

"I had somebody tell me this. (They) said, 'Mr. Walker, I just think it's wrong because you may have children who may want to come out of the closet and they don't want their parents to know.' As a parent, I'm saying wait a minute. Parents need to be involved in their children's sexual choices."

Walker admits, making his opinion public is what sparked much of the controversy.

As he looked at a yearbook page showing the first members of the Irmo High School Gay-Straight Alliance, he reflected about his love for all of his students.

"I love homosexuals. I love heterosexuals. I, as a Christian, we love everybody," said Walker.

Walker also revealed a very personal story of his uncle who had been married, then turned to homosexuality.

"I observed what I felt like it did to his life and it was not a positive choice," Walker said.

Eddie Walker says he did what he thought was right for the children, basing his decision on family history and religious beliefs.

"I think I've taken Irmo as far as I can take it. It's been 5 of the most wonderful years of my life. I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world."

Walker had originally said he'd retire the school year after the controversy, but decided to remain and retire a year later.

According to district officials, the Gay/Straight Alliance is still a functioning club at Irmo High.

Walker's replacement, Rob Weinkle, started July 1.

Students go back to class August 19.

Copyright 2010 WIS. All rights reserved.

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