UPDATE: Principal Assaults Pro-Gay Student, School District Lies to Protect Him

5 Oct

Sequoya HS Senior Chris Sigler

Yesterday, we shared the story of Sequoya High School senior Chris Sigler who wore a T-shirt with the words “GSA: I’ve got your back” to school and was assaulted by his principal for it. The Tennessee high school was in the news recently when that same principal threatened to suspend students for even discussing the proposed gay-straight alliance.

After my conversation with Principal Maurice Moser, Chris’ story was no surprise to me. Moser came across combative and angry when discussing his own discriminatory actions towards the GSA.

Last night, we were able to speak with a lawyer from the ACLU, who yesterday sent out a press release regarding the assault on Chris Sigler.  The ACLU is demanding that the school administration not only confirm that students’ first amendment rights are being protected, but that students also be allowed to form the GSA. Principal Moser had said to me in our conversation that the only reason the GSA is unable to form is because they cannot find a faculty sponsor. Moser has helped other clubs find sponsors in the past, but is unwilling to help the GSA.

We were told by the ACLU that there is a “disturbing trend” in this high school where several members of the faculty have expressed great interest in becoming the sponsor for the GSA. Then they have a meeting with Principal Moser to discuss and return from that meeting “suddenly uninterested.” We have reached out to some of these teachers for comment and to find out what happened in their meetings and will update you should they respond.

We were also able to speak to Chris Sigler’s mother, Linda last night who told us her version of what happened, which obviously agrees with the ACLU’s press release. She also wanted to reiterate the need for the GSA at this high school. She told me “there are at least 30 students who would like to be part of the club and in a small town, that’s a lot.”

While her son is straight, he has a sister Jessica who identifies as bisexual. “Chris saw how these kids were being treated and knew he had to stand up for them. That’s just the kind of kid he is.” Jessica was the only other person in the room when Moser attacked Chris. To date, the Sheriff has not interviewed Jessica. Yesterday, the Tennessee Equality Project started a petition for a fair investigation. That petition has since closed as Linda Sigler will be speaking with the sheriff today to find out why he hasn’t interviewed Jessica. In the meantime, they have created another petition calling for an investigation into the ongoing harassment of LGBT teens at Sequoya High School.

She went on to mention that the school currently houses at least two Christian student groups – the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and “Prayer Around the Flagpole,” where once a week, a pastor comes on to the school grounds and students are asked to go pray around the flagpole. Until very recently, there was also a prayer said before every football game.

While Christian student organizations may not initially be seen as something to compare the plight of the GSA to, according to a poster on the GSA’s facebook page, there are area Christian churches which are getting involved in the fight to stop them:

“Heard this from a friend in Madisonville: At Howard Chapel Church in Vonore, the pastor preached on QUEERS and said the ACLU may be getting involved with the GSA at Sequoyah and for no church members to sign on or be involved, etc.”

The Howard Chapel Church is less than a mile from the home of a lesbian couple that was burned to the ground allegedly by their neighbor. The word “QUEER” was spray painted in large black letters on their adjoining garage. To add insult to injury, the couple’s insurance company is refusing to pay them on their claim. GetEQUAL has started a petition to the insurance company here and to date, more than 50,000 have signed.

Local NBC affiliate, WBIR has more on the alleged assault including a statement from Tim Blankenship, Ass’t Director of Schools for Monroe County:

“The Monroe County School System is aware of the alleged accusations. We have received written statements from all eyewitnesses. Our documentation clearly indicates that there are always two sides to every story. We’ll gladly provide more information when it becomes available.”

The problem with this claim is that according to Linda Sigler, no statement was taken by the school from her daughter Jessica – the only eyewitness to the assault. I called Tim Blankenship directly and when I attempted to ask him about the discrepancy in his statement and the truth, he hung up on me.

It’s become very clear that the school district is trying to protect Principal Moser to the point that they are silencing students and reporting untruths to the media about what is actually happening in Sequoya High School’s halls. When the bullying of LGBT students is literally coming from the top-down, something needs to change.

We’ll have more on this as it comes in.

10 Responses to “UPDATE: Principal Assaults Pro-Gay Student, School District Lies to Protect Him”

  1. Edwina Duke (@KJCpoplover101) October 5, 2011 at 3:51 pm #

    this is horrible. it’s obvious they want to silence the issue and protect the principal. why else wouldn’t they take the claim of the only witness there? useless people.

    • Ilene Maddox October 10, 2011 at 11:59 pm #

      This whole story could be BULL. Every student I have spoke to that has ever had contact with him throughout years of teaching says he is a WONDERFUL man. Everyone believes this kid, and I DON’T.

      Plus, anyone that says ANYTHING against this group is attacked. They say it’s a Anti-Bully group, but it is a Pro-Gay group. No adult in our little towns would allow a child to be bullied. The teachers are wonderful, along with the rest of the staff.

      • Jamie McGonnigal October 11, 2011 at 7:37 am #

        And I’ve spoken to several people – past and former students who are not at all surprised that this happened. Having spoken to him, and heard the resentment he harbors towards LGBT people, it didn’t surprise me either.

        Moser is also bullying teachers out of becoming the sponsor for the group. The police and churches are tied into it as well. You have a problem in your town and people need to start saying something about it.

      • GDad October 12, 2011 at 6:50 pm #

        What does it matter if it’s a Pro-Gay group vs. an Anti-Bully group? There are several clubs at Sequoyah High School (FFA and FTA, among them) that are Pro-Something groups? Are you suggesting that the club should be banned due to perceived duplicity on the part of the founders, or simply because you disagree with its mission? If the latter, then I hope reasonable people can use your remarks as a case study about why these groups are critical to provide support to LQTGB students who might otherwise feel marginalized.

  2. Josh October 5, 2011 at 8:23 pm #

    I’ve taught at the college level, and the quickest way to lose your job is to assault a student. Every school employee knows that. I hope this Principal is fired immediately and is prosecuted to the full extent of the law. What a sad example for his students: treat minorities like dirt and use violence to solve your disagreements.

    • Monroe Co Teacher October 18, 2011 at 8:45 pm #

      Really? really! Since everyone knows that, why would they do it? Quit believing everything you read on the Internet!!! I’m glad you weren’t my college professor!

  3. Gerald Donohue October 6, 2011 at 12:53 pm #

    That’s real news. Gay press needs to report more incidents like that. It counters the notion that LGBT has gained acceptance.

    • posnie October 7, 2011 at 12:10 pm #

      Such an abomination in the lives of our kids.
      Thank you for covering this!

  4. majii October 7, 2011 at 12:18 pm #

    Stick with it, Jamie,

    I’m very familiar with these kinds of shenanigans. I taught in public high schools in small towns in GA for 33 years until I retired in 2009. Group think/action is the expected behavior, and anyone who goes against the status quo is marginalized and may lose his/her job since a yearly recommendation by the principal is necessary for a teacher to work year after year. I think when this principal met with the teachers who were willing to sponsor GSA, he sent them a message to them to disassociate themselves with the group. I wouldn’t be surprised if there weren’t an implied threat regarding losing their jobs if they opposed his “recommendation.” I’ve seen this many times before, and it’s wrong. Please stay the course and demand that the school system and local law enforcement provide the answers to your and Linda’s questions about this alleged assault. I use the word “alleged,” but deep inside of me my experience with these little authoritarian principals tells me that Chris is telling the truth.


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