The students of Valor Christian High School in Colorado walked out of their classes earlier this week after volleyball coach Inoke Tonga was forced to quit for being gay.
During their afternoon classes on Tuesday August 24, around 50 students, parents and alumni gathered outside the school and called out the management for firing Tonga
The walkout was organised by Valor Christain Junior Lucy Sarkissian who said in an interview with Arvarda Press that the school does not have a great history of treating gay staff and student fairly.
“What happened to Coach Inoke gives the community a much-needed voice on this issue and what Valor is doing. It gives a voice to the rights that gay people deserve.”
Coach Was ‘Grilled’ About being Gay
The former volleyball coach was forced to resign last week because the school found out he was gay through his social media posts.
After his dismissal Tonga made a Facebook post where he said he was “grilled about how being Gay is a “danger” to the school and to the kids.
“Thursday, August 19, 2021 was the day that ended my journey in growing together with my girls and boys at Valor Christian. I met with the campus pastor and athletic director who invited me to come by before my girls’ practice,” the post said
“Unaware of what conversation was awaiting me, I was bright eyed and happy to be there because our interactions prior to that day were always so refreshing.”
Coach Asked If He Had Made Changes To His ‘Lifestyle’
According to Tonga the campus pastor and athletic director asked if he made any changes to his lifestyle, to which Tonga denied. Eventually they asked if he had posted anything about being gay.
This is the crowd assembled outside of the school now. Students are sharing their perspectives and passing the bullhorn around to get their voices heard. pic.twitter.com/mvtI9U61LI
— Elizabeth Hernandez (@ehernandez) August 24, 2021
“My answer was yes. Of course I advocate for LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters, especially those struggling with finding a relationship with God. The culture document of Valor Christian that was given to me during the interview process didn’t mention anything about their stance on LGBTQ+”
Another Teacher Said She Was Forced Out For Being Lesbian
The day after the walkout Lauren Benner a former Lacrosse coach at Valor made an Instagram post sharing her experiences at the school.
View this post on Instagram
“I feel it is important for me to no longer stay silent and to share my similar experience of being mistreated by Valor,” she said.
According to Benner she had no idea the school knew about her sexuality and was shocked to be called into a meeting where they told her she would have to leave.
“I had no reason to think this would be a meeting to be nervous about. In fact, I thought this meeting could potentially be about the raise and title change I had deservedly been fighting for,” Benner said.
“Very quickly I realised this was not going to be the meeting I hoped for. Completely blindsided, I was told someone anonymously called the school and suggested I was in a relationship with another woman. I was asked to confirm or deny.”
School Said ‘Gay Marriages Won’t Last’
Initially Benner denied the accusation saying she was still on a journey of self discovery at the time. However, after the meeting the former lacrosse coach said the school became “a place of fear and distrust.”
The following year Benner asked to have a meeting to discuss the schools policies towards LGBTQIA+ students.
“Once again this meeting was nothing short of shocking. I was overwhelmed with the lack of sensitivity,” Benner said.
“I was bombarded with ignorant and irrelevant statements like “gay marriages don’t last” and God made man and woman for the sole purpose of procreation.”
“It was right then and there I decided that I made the formal decision to end my employment at Valor.”
A Facebook page has also been created in support of Tonga and fellow ex Valor staff member Benner.
For 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14
For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.