Mike Pence condemned for visit to anti-LGBT+ private school that bans students from discussing sexuality and gender
US vice president Mike Pence and secretary for education Betsy DeVos were criticised by a human rights group after staging a photo op at an anti-LGBT+ private school.
Pence and DeVos visited a Thales Academy in North Carolina which has recently re-opened its doors to rally for a return to in-person teaching.
A chain of private schools, Thales Academy has – according to Human Rights Campaign (HRC) — “a long history of discrimination against LGBTQ students and even banned them from discussing their sexual orientation and gender identity”.
Pence was photographed at the school without a mask in sight, while COVID-19 continues to spread in the US.
“We’ve got to get our kids back to school,” he said. We’ve got to get them back this fall. It’s best for our kids. It’s best for working families. It’s best for North Carolina and best for all of America.”
Thales Academy bans students from discussing the existence of LGBT+ people.
Thales Academy states on its website: “We are a secular school not associated with any religious organisation or beliefs. However, we execute curriculum, instruction, and operations informed by a Judeo-Christian worldview, consistent with our Western classical roots.”
In 2018, the Thales Academy student handbook prohibited students discussing gender identity and sexual orientation.
It read: “Promotion, affirmation, or discussion of behaviours associated with the terms ‘sexual orientation’ or ‘gender identity’, including homosexuality, bisexuality and transgenderism, are expressly prohibited.”
Although the wording was later changed, the Thales Academy 2020/21 student handbook still strongly suggests that LGBT+ topics should not be discussed by students at school.
It now reads: “Discussions of a sexual nature, including discussions of sexual behaviours or acts, are types of expression that are disruptive to the learning environment and should not occur.
“Similarly, we understand that our families approach issues such as sexual orientation, identity, and expression through a variety of social, religious, and philosophical perspectives and believe discussions around these subjects most appropriately occur, if at all, at home rather than in the classroom or school environment.”
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Anti-LGBT+ school visit says “a lot about the warped values” of Mike Pence and Betsy DeVos, said rights group.
HRC Associate Regional Campaign Director Melodía Gutiérrez said in a statement: “LGBTQ children are some of the most vulnerable members of our community.
“Each year, thousands of LGBTQ children die by suicide or are forced out of their homes because of family and community rejection.
“It tells you a lot about the warped values of Mike Pence and Betsy DeVos that they choose to highlight a school like Thales Academy that refuses to even allow students to talk about their sexual orientation, let alone seek refuge in friends as they struggle to embrace their identities.”
At the end of last year, education secretary DeVos took another trip to an anti-LGBT+ school, this time one which maintains policies of expelling transgender children and sacking gay teachers.
This month, DeVos and Donald Trump threatened to cut federal funding from schools which continued to use remote learning.