MLK school assembly draws controversy for including LGBTQ speakers

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ARLINGTON, Wash. — A high school assembly is drawing controversy, after Arlington High students from the LGBTQ community were among the speakers talking about their struggles during a celebration for Martin Luther King Jr.

While supporters say their message was in line with the theme of inclusion, others say it wasn’t the right platform.

The assembly was organized by student leadership, and one of the speakers was a transgender student, who says she’s proud to share her story but that it’s unfortunate not everyone felt comfortable hearing it.

This week, the Arlington Public Schools Board listened to concerns from parents after students walked out of an assembly in honor of Martin Luther King. Students say they were uncomfortable when one student talked about being gay, another transgender.

“They simply got up and walked out; they didn’t make a scene; they did it respectfully, and they were ridiculed for that but that was their right to do so to get up and walk out,” said Gregory Jackson, whose son also performed in the assembly. As someone who met MLK and lived through the civil rights movement, he doesn’t feel the platform should have been used by the LGBT.

“If you feel like you’re being discriminated against in this setting, fine, but that’s still not fine for a Martin Luther King celebration, because he was a reverend before he was a doctor,” said Jackson. “My feeling was that that wasn’t appropriate for a gay agenda in any form.”

The school principal stands by the assembly and says the speeches were part of an overall theme of inclusion, and parents like Anne Wendt agree.

“I completely agree with the school for having an assembly that was inclusive like that,” said Wendt, who also voiced her thoughts at Monday’s school board meeting.

Wendt understands families might be uncomfortable about topics about sexuality, but believe some lessons are important to be taught anyway.

“In this day and age, I think we need to be compassionate to everyone, and I think that’s what we teach our kids,” said Wendt.

The district says the biggest lesson they learned is to communicate more with parents about what will be discussed at assemblies or events, so that everyone is aware and doesn’t feel like there’s a hidden agenda.