John Fetterman challenges Pa. school board’s cancellation of talk by gay actor

Author: Christopher Wiggins

U.S. Sen. John Fetterman, a Pennsylvania

“This decision is deeply wrong and affirms exactly why it’s so important to have a conversation about bullying,” Fetterman stated on Threads. He continued, “This is a learning experience for the children’s education & perspective, and I’m calling on the Cumberland Valley School District Board to reverse their vote and let @maulikpancholy speak.”

Pancholy, known for his roles in 30 Rock and as a voice actor in Phineas and Ferb, was scheduled to speak next month at Mountain View Middle School in Mechanicsburg about his experiences with bullying and the importance of empathy and inclusion. However, the school board canceled the event, citing concerns that the actor’s LGBTQ+ advocacy would be too political for a school setting.

Despite the backlash and a growing community petition to reinstate the event, the Cumberland Valley board has stood by its decision. Trisha Comstock, who has two sons in the district, initiated an online petition to reinstate Pancholy’s talk, which quickly gathered over 1,000 signatures,The New York Timesreports. Comstock argued in a phone interview that the board’s use of politics as a pretext was misguided.

“There is no political agenda. He is not trying to pass policies or change minds or anything like that,” she said.

In defense of the cancellation, board member Bud Shaffner told the Times his comments on Pancholy’s “lifestyle” were about the actor’s activism, which he perceived as political, potentially violating district policy. However, Comstock contended that if the policy were applied consistently, other groups considered activists would also face bans, questioning, “Would we ban Mothers Against Drunk Driving from coming and talking to our members?”

Board member Kelly Potteiger, also a member of the local chapter of the right-wing extremist anti-government activist group Moms for Liberty, expressed concerns that Pancholy might discuss his children’s books, which explore the bullying faced by LGBTQ+ characters or his experiences with anti-bullying efforts, the Times reports. “Again, it’s not discriminating against his lifestyle, that’s his choice, but it’s him speaking about it,” Potteiger said. “He did say that that’s not the topic, but that’s what his books are about.”

Pancholy addressed the cancellation in an Instagram video. “My heart goes out to the entire Mountain View Middle School community, and particularly to the students,” he said.

“As a middle schooler, I never saw myself represented in the stories around me. I couldn’t find books that featured South Asian-American or LGBTQ+ characters. They didn’t exist,” he continued. “And when I set out to write my own novels so many years later, I was still hard-pressed to find those stories. It’s why I wrote my books in the first place. Because representation matters. When I visit schools, my ‘activism’ is to let all young people know that they’re seen. To let them know that they matter.”

He concluded, “To each of you: I see you. I appreciate you. You matter. No one can take that away from you.”

Trudy Ring contributed reporting.

Original Article on The Advocate
Author: Christopher Wiggins

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