Education

High school students shocked and outraged by ‘hateful’ anti-LGBTQ+ graduation speech

Rachel Badham June 6, 2022
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Cassidy Osipow and Jim McGuire (5News)

LGBTQ+ students from Ohio’s River Valley High School were left horrified after a alumni speaker told graduates that they should “choose biblical principles” by only being in heterosexual relationships.

During a graduation ceremony for 105 students at the US school on 3 June, “distinguished alumni speaker” Jim McGuire caused controversy with a bizarre commencement speech in which he ‘suggested’ that students enter heterosexual relationships in accordance with the Bible.

Addressing the crowd at the high school in Ohio’s rural village of ​​Caledonia, McGuire said: “Choose a spouse, I suggest.”

“I also strongly suggest to make sure to choose biblical principles, you know, a male with a female and female with a male.”

LGBTQ+ students were taken aback by McGuire’s homophobic comments, with 18-year-old graduate Cassidy Osipow telling 5 News that the anti-LGBTQ+ speech was highly unexpected.

Cassidy Osipow (5News)

“It was supposed to be the day that I was finally free from all the stuff that I’d experienced in high school,” said Osipow, who identifies as a lesbian and found high school an isolating experience.

“I couldn’t really be myself around people at my school because I felt like they were going to not accept me for who I was,” they added.

Osipow recalled hearing the speech and thinking: “This can’t actually be real,” before denying a handshake from McGuire after the graduation ceremony. 

“He held his hand to me and said, ‘Oh, good job,’ but I just walked by him because he shouldn’t have been able to be in the room after that anyway,” she said.

“I didn’t feel comfortable shaking this man’s hand.”

5 News reportedly “reached out” to the school before, to which superintendent Adam Wickham said in a written statement: “Any views expressed by the speaker during his commencement speech reflected his personal beliefs.”

“As with all alumni speeches in past ceremonies, the speech was not reviewed by anyone on the River Valley administrative team or board of education.”

While the statement did say that the “River Valley administrative team will be reviewing our processes for future ceremonies”, Osipow was left disappointed at the school’s response.

“I think we were all expecting an apology in that email and they just tried brushing it under the rug,” they said.

Tony Fisher, Osipow’s step-father added: “I was surprised that the school didn’t respond quickly to say that was uncalled for and inappropriate.”

“I knew my two daughters were taken aback and I was embarrassed that the school board put that gentleman in front of my daughters and put him in front of so many individuals that day.”

5 News also reported that “dozens” of others have told the news outlet that it is “embarrassing and disappointing” to see the lack of responsibility taken by the school. 

Osipow said their experience at graduation has reinforced her relief to be leaving school: “I’m definitely going to remember this graduation now that’s going to be like a negative thing that I had to hear”.

“I feel like I’m not going to really miss being in school… that’s probably what I remember the most [from graduation] – is that I finally get to just be done with it.”

McGuire was contacted by 5News but declined to comment. 

 

More: Homophobia, Ohio

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