Postponed Gay-Straight Alliance event rescheduled in January at Cox High School

Posted at 4:36 PM, Dec 06, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-06 23:26:00-05
Frank W. Cox High School

Frank W. Cox High School

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - New developments were released Tuesday about the postponed gay-straight alliance assembly at Cox High School.

The assembly was postponed this weekend, one day before it was scheduled to happen.

On Tuesday, the school announced the event will now be held outside of school hours at 6 p.m. on January 30th.

The school is also planning a diversity and acceptance rally in February where multiple student groups will discuss respect and inclusiveness. This assembly will include Gay-Straight Alliance students as well as members of other student clubs and representatives from community organizations.

Michael Berlucchi, President of Hampton Roads Pride, says the original assembly was organized a few months ago after an anti-gay bullying situation at Cox High School.

He says it was a "very serious bullying incident that resulted in an even more serious incident with a student," but could not comment further due to confidentiality issues.

Berlucchi says the event was approved by Cox High School for at least one month. They also were given a script of speeches planned for the event.

After all of the planning, Berlucchi says he was most dissappoined with the schools' abrupt cancelation.

In a statement after Tuesday's announcement, Cox High School Principal Dr. Randi Riesbeck said, "Cox High School supports all students regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, disability, national origin or sexual orientation. Educating all students in a safe, accepting environment is a priority at our school, and we encourage and applaud our students’ inclusive efforts."

On Monday, school board chairman, Dan Edwards, also released a statement on the matter.

He said in part, "It is important to note the School Board has not met to discuss this matter and no member of the School Board asked or directed the principal or administration to take any action, as in the case of all administrative matters."

There  questions surrounding an e-mail sent by an incoming school board member to Chairman Dan Edwards over the weekend about concerns with the event, before they postponed the assembly.

News 3 asked Edwards about the e-mail at Tuesday's school board meeting and he said it was simply a question, only to him.

"There was absolutely no relationship between her and her email and the postponement of that assembly," he said.

Superintendent Aaron Spence also addressed the assembly at Tuesday night's meeting.

He said their decision was not to underscore the GSA's message of the need for acceptance and understanding. Instead, they were following school policy that does not allow events organized by student-led groups and clubs to happen during instructional time.

Janet Moore, a Hampton Roads Pride board member who also attended the meeting, says while the school board might have had good intentions, the policy excuse is a defense mechanism.

"I just think unfortunately it was fear, they were afraid, they didn't realize that the teachers and the principal and the students had gone to great lengths to make sure this was a quality program," she says. "I think they're going to be proud of it when they have it, I'm sure they'll be a lot more attention to it now, so maybe that's the whole meaning behind this."