High School Cancels Santorum Speech over Marriage Stance
An upcoming speech by former presidential candidate Rick Santorum has been canceled by a school district in Michigan, citing an unwillingness to accept the former Pennsylvania senator’s supposed “divisive” stances on traditional marriage.
In a phone call with Young America’s Foundation’s Vice President Patrick Coyle on Monday, Grosse Pointe Public School System Superintendent Dr. Thomas Harwood said he will not allow the already-approved speech at Grosse Pointe South Public High School by Santorum because of the senator’s stances on some policy issues, namely traditional marriage and education.
The school’s Young Americans for Freedom group, the chapter affiliate of Young America’s Foundation, invited Santorum to the school.
“The Freedom chapter came to us and wanted to see if Senator Santorum could come to the high school and speak to the students. Weeks ago, I participated in a call with the school principal, Dr. Matt Outlaw, and the chapter chairman, Langston Bowens. During the call, Outlaw signed off on the event,” Coyle said.
But on Monday’s call, Superintendent Harwood told Coyle that they were canceling the event.
Coyle explained to Harwood that the school district already approved Senator Santorum’s speech and its topic on leadership. However, when Senator Santorum’s speech was announced, teachers within the school district sent videos to administrators showcasing some of Senator Santorum’s past statements on traditional marriage and education.
As the conversation continued, Coyle said that the administrators became more and more agitated as Coyle hopelessly explained that Senator Santorum’s speech would be about leadership. Harwood then said that he supports traditional marriage, but has a brother who is gay, and he finds Santorum’s views “extreme.”
“Superintendent Harwood is injecting his own personal views into the situation and subsequently keeping students from hearing an American public policy leader discuss the importance of being a leader in their school and community,” Coyle said.
Langston Bowens, chairman of the school’s Young Americans for Freedom chapter who contacted Coyle to see if Senator Santorum could come to the school, said, “I personally view this action an inherent censorship of student voices at Grosse Pointe South. These actions are shameful.”
Late Monday, Outlaw e-mailed parents informing them of the decision:
As a follow-up to the proposed assembly on April 24th, I wanted to thank the many staff members that shared additional information about the potential speaker. Based on this information and a few other items, I am announcing that we are declining the invitation to have Rick Santorum speak to our student body. Dr. Harwood is very supportive of this decision and we feel that we were mislead [sic] in a few areas with this. Peter Fox [the vice chairman of Young Americans for Freedom], in particular, was amazing through this process and showed such maturity today as we declined the invitation for the speech. I am so sorry for the angst that this may have caused, but please plan for a regular day of school on April 24th.
Dr. Matt Outlaw
“Education is based on the free flow of ideas. I am disappointed with the position the school has taken regarding the proposed event, and I stand fully behind YAF,” Grosse Pointe South YAF vice chairman Peter Fox said.
Squelching freedom of speech isn’t new in this school district. At Grosse Pointe North High School, YAF chairman Grant Strobl wanted to hang "Respect All Women" posters in the high school to celebrate Women's History Month. The school principal, Tim Bearden, initially refused to sign off on the posters because he found them "vitriolic and inappropriate."
This week, however, the posters were finally approved, only after being heavily modified.
On Tuesday, Bowens met with Outlaw, who, according to Bowens, remains supportive of bringing Senator Santorum to Grosse Pointe South.
Adam Tragone is Director of External Relations at Young America’s Foundation and former Managing Editor of Human Events.