This letter of inquiry was sent on Tuesday, October 7, 2014 to all members of the Vincennes Community School Board, the principal of Vincennes Lincoln High School, as well as the high school newspaper and GSA (Gay Straight Alliance) sponsor. The principal forwarded his letter and concerns to the New Years Eve Ball committee chair.
A second copy of the letter was sent to the New Years Eve Ball committee at the request of the committee chair on Friday, October 10, 2014.
The committee is scheduled to meet on Sunday, October 12, 2014 to reconsider and vote on the “traditional couples only” policy.
Dear Vincennes Community School Board Member:
The Friday, October 3, 2014 edition of The Old Post Sentinel, Vincennes Lincoln High School’s student newspaper, stated that one stipulation for attending this year’s New Years Eve Ball is that the “committee requires traditional couples only.” It is my understanding “traditional couples only” has been the norm since the New Years Eve Ball’s inception and is meant to exclude LGBT couples and/or students.
I understand the Vincennes Community School Corporation and Vincennes Lincoln High School are not affiliated with the New Years Eve Ball, that the dance is not school-sponsored. However, the committee members are comprised of Lincoln High School students and their parents.
My concern is that requiring “traditional couples only” for a dance sponsored by Lincoln High School students and their parents might create the potential for negative repercussions regarding the high school itself, the Vincennes Community School Corporation, and Vincennes. It happened in a neighboring community.
One must consider the public relations nightmare Sullivan High School experienced when a teacher with the system in February 2013 went on local television supporting “traditional couples only” for the local high school prom. Because of the perceived and undoubtedly precarious relationship between the New Years Eve Ball committee and Vincennes Lincoln High School it is necessary, I believe, to address the exclusionary “traditional couples only” stipulation for the student dance. Why not allow LGBT student couples to attend?
Yesterday, October 6, 2014, was a historic day in terms of the Supreme Court ruling ushering in marriage equality for the State of Indiana. It was also the 16th anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s beating in Laramie, WY. Wouldn’t the New Years Eve Ball committee members, Lincoln High School students and their parents, be better served and serve better the community by presenting an opportunity for inclusion? If news outlets and media were to see another “traditional couples only” dance in southern Indiana—in a neighboring county to Sullivan High School no less—would the media make a distinction between a school sponsored and non-school sponsored dance? How might the media spin on a “private, invitation only” dance for “traditional couples only” potentially play out locally, regionally, or nationwide? How would Vincennes and the New Years Eve Ball committee comprised of Vincennes Lincoln High School students and parents be perceived?
Sullivan, Indiana and the teacher Diana Medley were labeled bigots and homophobes on a national scale—news articles written and preserved on the Internet—after Ms. Medley’s WTWO Channel 2 news interview. It concerns me to see, or even consider, the potential harm to local LGBT teens by incorporating such exclusionary practices or the public embarrassment created by our community hosting a “traditional couples only” student dance sponsored by Vincennes Lincoln High School students and their parents, and the potential for negative light to be shed upon my hometown and my alma mater.
Your time and consideration are greatly appreciated.
J. Patrick Redmond
Vincennes Lincoln High School, Class of 1987