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The fight for change and acceptance of sexuality

Shortly into the school year, Inoke Tonga, a volleyball coach from Valor Christian High School, was pushed to resign from his position as head boys volleyball coach, and girls assistant volleyball coach. After seeing a post on Tonga’s social media in relation to the LGBTQ+ community, administrators at Valor Christian told Tonga his options were, to denounce identifying as a gay man, or to withdraw from his coaching position. 

In a Facebook post by Tonga, he writes, “I sat in a room being grilled about how being gay is a ‘danger’ to the school and the kids. That with me ‘identifying as a gay man, they can’t put the kids at risk by having me infront of them.’”

Douglas County Schools have no doubt made progress in becoming more accepting of diversity in the current generation. Workplace protections implemented in 2008 allowed teachers to be gay role models, but clearly, prejudice still lurks.

Students and staff have fought for equality for years, starting clubs and programs where people can feel accepted. Spencer Woods, English teacher, said, “When the GSA (gay-straight alliance) first started we actually had to have a sheriffs deputy on campus for each of the meetings because we got violent threats.”

Woods said, “Getting workplace protections was essential because it made teachers like me feel comfortable with coming out, and then they could show students that you can be gay, and be something else also.”

Woods initial reaction after hearing of Tongas story was disappointment. Woods said, “I am concerned for the LGBTQ+ students of Valor, and how the firing of their teachers makes them feel.”

In reaction to the firing, Valor students gathered with strength and solidarity days later in protest outside of the school to show their support for Tonga and the LGBTQ+ community. Students wanted him to know that they stand with him, as well as anyone else in the building who fears to show who they really are at the hands of administration. 

The Instagram account @ValorStudentsForChange was created on August 22nd, 2021, and has already gained over 1000 followers. The creator of the account Lucy Sarkissian, is a junior at Valor Christian and organized the walkout. 

Sarkissian said, “I want our generation to know that you are never alone. No matter your circumstances, you have a community who loves you. Using your voice and standing up for things you believe in is always worth it.”

Lucy Sarkissian fighting for acceptance of sexuality outside Valor Christian High School. Photo courtesy of Emma Bernard

The strength of the students of Valor Christian is inspiring to all. They showed the LGBTQ+ students of Valor and all of Highlands Ranch that your sexuality does not define you, and that you are loved.

By using his given platform to express himself, Tonga was able to have his voice heard by the community, just as we all can. He concluded his post by writing, “I pray the students and faculty who are silently battling who they are, realize that the morals of the school and the beliefs of certain individuals do not get to decide if they are worthy of God’s love.”

Camryn Montgomery, Online Editor

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