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Pennsylvania Board of Regents' Cancellation of Gay Actor's School Visit Is Unwise, Education Officials Say

Pennsylvania Board of Regents' Cancellation of Gay Actor's School Visit Is Unwise, Education Officials Say


MECHANICSBURG, Pa. Pennsylvania school boards' cancellation of an upcoming appearance by actor and children's book author Maulik Pancholy was ill-advised and sends a hurtful message, particularly to the LGBTQ+ community, education officials said .

A Cumberland Valley School District board member raised concerns about what he described as Pancholy's activism and lifestyle before the board. voted unanimously on Monday to cancel his appearance at a May 22 assembly at Mountain View Middle School. Pancholy, who is gay, was expected to speak out against bullying.

In addition to their concerns about Pancholy, some board members also pointed to the district's policy of not hosting overtly political events, news outlets reported. The policy was adopted after the district came under fire for hosting a Donald Trump rally during his 2016 presidential campaign.

District Superintendent Mark Blanchard and nine other senior leaders, including assistant superintendents and district directors of technology, curriculum, legal affairs, human resources, student services and special education, sent Thursday a letter to the board of trustees, faculty and staff asserting that Pancholy's speech should have been authorized. Representatives for Pancholys shared a copy of the letter with The Associated Press.

Education officials said they were not given a real chance to answer questions or offer advice about the event, which they said was intended to reinforce the importance of equal treatment for all.

Administrators added that the school boards' decision has significant ramifications for our school community, particularly our LGBTQ+ students and staff. They also noted that the actor's gender identity had been cited as a factor in the decision, meaning that Mr. Pancholy's personality was reduced to one aspect and that his ability to communicate a message of struggle against bullying and hatred has been discredited.

The Associated Press sent emails to individual school board members seeking comment Friday.

Pancholy, 48, is an award-winning actor, most notably for his roles in the television shows 30 Rock and Weeds, and as the voice of Baljeet in the Disney animated series, Phineas & Ferb. He has also written children's books and, in 2014, was appointed by then-President Barack Obama to serve on the President's Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, where he co-founded a campaign to combat AAPI bullying.

Pancholy's appearance was scheduled by the school's leadership team, which selects an author each year to present a unique educational experience to students, according to the district.

The school boards' vote to cancel Pancholy's appearance also drew criticism from several parents, students and community members, who called the decision homophobic. Some have started online petitions demanding that Pancholy's appearance be reinstated.

In a report Posting on social media this week, Pancholy said his visits to schools are meant to let all young people know they are seen.

To let them know they matter.

He also said that one of the reasons he became an author was because as a child he never saw himself represented in stories.

This is the power of books. They develop empathy, Pancholy wrote. I wonder why a school board is so afraid of this?




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