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Pennsylvania school board cancels Gay 30 Rock Actors conference

Pennsylvania school board cancels Gay 30 Rock Actors conference


Openly gay actor Maulik Pancholy was not invited to speak at a middle school anti-bullying assembly after concerns were raised about his political activism and what two school board members called his lifestyle.

Pancholy's scheduled appearance at Mountain View Middle School in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, was unanimously canceled by the district school board during a public meeting on April 15.

If you research this individual, he describes himself as an activist, he takes pride in his lifestyle and I don't think that should be forced on our students no matter their age, said member Bud Shaffner of the board of directors, during the meeting.

Trisha Comstock, a former mother of the school, started a petition to reestablish the assembly of empathy and the fight against harassment.

What happened is homophobic. Anyone can go there and watch the meeting, Comstock tells This advice is about to cause real damage.

Why was Maulik Pancholy disinvited?

Board member Kelly Potteiger raised concerns that Pancholy, 50, would discuss his children's book The Best at It, which is about a gay Native American boy.

This is not discrimination against his lifestyle, it is his choice, Potteiger said at the meeting. But he's the one who talks about it.

Pancholy played the character of Jonathan, Alex Baldwin's devoted assistant, in the sitcom “30 Rock,” and also voiced the character of Baljeet in “Phineas and Ferb.”

Pancholy's presentation on anti-bullying at Mountain View Middle School was canceled by a vote of 8 to 0. has reached out to Pancholy for comment.

Brooke Ryerson, an LGBTQ high school sophomore, attended Mountain View Middle School. Ryerson and his mother plan to express their disappointment at the board's next meeting on May 6.

It was going to be a meeting about empathy and anti-bullying, Ryerson, 16, told But that doesn't matter to the board. They want to silence us by any means possible.

The we that Ryerson is referring to is the gay community.

They send the message that they don't want our identity at school, Ryerson said. I'm lucky to have such tolerant friends and family, but it must be devastating for the kids who don't and now feel even more like they're not wanted somewhere.

Maulik Pancholy
Maulik Pancholy is an award-winning actor and author.Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images

How the school board decided

According to the Pancholys website, the award-winning author delivers talks on the topic of diversity and inclusion. Pancholy describes himself as an activist and served on President Barack Obama's Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Shaffner told in a phone interview that he was concerned Pancholy would go off-script and talk about politics.

Politically motivated discussions belong at home, not in the classroom, Shaffner says. A number of board members looked at his website and what stood out to us all was that he is a political activist.

Cumberland Valley School District spokeswoman Tracy Panzer told that the school's principal is “working with staff members to identify award-winning young adult authors to visit with students.”

Panzer said Pancholy's visit was not on the board's original agenda.

However… a board member proposed canceling the invitation to author Maulik Pancholy's planned visit this year, Panzer said. Ultimately, the board voted not to allow the visit.

“That…could have saved a life.”

Tony Conte, a former student at Mountain View Middle School, shared an open letter to Shaffner on Facebook. In his post, Conte discussed his experience as a closeted gay teenager and said he contemplated suicide from time to time.

Like many different kids, I was teased for reasons I didn't understand, and had a lot of difficulty forming friendships and developing a healthy mindset that it was okay to be a little different, wrote Conte.

In high school, Conte said he befriended another kid who was very different.

Before we could get closer, before we could confide our challenges to each other, he hanged himself, Conte wrote.

I think if I had heard diverse voices like Pancholy's in an auditorium telling me it was okay to be different, maybe my middle school and high school experience might have been different, he said. he continued. A presentation like this could have saved a life, like that of my friend.

According to The Trevor Project, LGBTQ students at LGBTQ-affirming schools are 30% less likely to experience bullying from their peers. Pancholy's work focuses on youth in the AAPI community.

When I was a child, I was often ashamed of just being who I was. I was ashamed of being Indian. I was ashamed of being skinny and small for my age. I was ashamed of being gay,” Pancholy said. in 2015. “And there were times when I was a child when I didn't feel safe being who I was. And there are times, as an adult, where I still sometimes feel unsafe to be who I am.




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