News From Terre Haute, Indiana

February 21, 2013

Teacher in prom issue put on administrative leave for safety concerns

Comments themselves not reason for action, Northeast Sullivan superintendent says

Brian Boyce
The Tribune-Star

FARMERSBURG — Teacher Diana Medley has been placed on administrative leave and police will be placed in some Sullivan County schools, following remarks made concerning homosexuals and a high school prom.

Mark Baker, superintendent of the Northeast School Corp. in Sullivan County, issued a public statement Wednesday notifying the community of the action.

According to the statement, administrators and “one school employee in particular at North Central Jr./Sr.. High School have received aggressive email messages” concerning the matter, which has drawn national attention.

“In response to our concerns for the safety and security of everyone in our buildings, we have placed the employee at the center of this concern on administrative leave,” he stated in the release.

According to his release, the decision to place the employee on a leave of absence stemmed from concerns for security, not the comments themselves.

Sgt. Joe Watts of the Indiana State Police confirmed that troopers will be placed in the schools, augmenting officers provided by the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Department. The troopers will remain at the facilities for between seven and 10 days, he said.

“After that, we’ll take it on a day-by-day basis,” he explained, adding no specific threats were issued, but given the media attention drawn by the situation, school officials determined security was required.

The corporation’s action comes after days of controversy surrounding a proposal by fundamentalist church members for a prom that would exclude homosexuals. The issue has drawn the attention of the American Civil Liberties Union, with attorney Ken Falk stating that same-sex couples wanting to attend a district-sponsored prom would be protected by the U.S. Constitution.

Under the equal protection clause, “Government cannot in this context treat someone differently,” Falk said earlier this month. “It requires equality of treatment for people who are otherwise equal.”

Last week, at a community meeting on the topic, North Central Jr./Sr. High School teacher Medley made statements to WTWO-TV that homosexuals choose their lifestyle and serve no purpose in life, expressing her support for a prom that bans homosexuals.

In a statement issued Feb. 14, Baker addressed those comments: “I cannot emphasize enough the extent to which we are dismayed and disappointed with the statements made by a school employee who was expressing her own opinions as she attended a meeting outside of school or a school activity,” he stated in that release, later adding that, “Please understand that while we do not support the employee’s opinions, we do recognize that each employee has some protection to express his or her opinion. The school also acknowledges speech protections to express opinions opposite of this employer’s.”

An email sent to Medley seeking comment was not returned Wednesday evening.

In Baker’s statement issued Wednesday, he said the security of the facilities, staff and students are paramount in spite of national attention drawn.

“Please know we are always going to put the safety of our students and faculty first and any disruption of our educational process will be managed quickly,” he stated in the release.

Brian Boyce can be reached at 812-231-4253 or brian.boyce@tribstar.com.