Did North Carolina Appointee Vote to Defy the Law on LGBT School Issues?

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Did Buddy Collins, recently appointed to the North Carolina Board of Education, vote as a local school board member in 2009 to defy state law simply because of his personal objections to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality in schools?

Several reports indicate that he did.

Assuming Collins did in fact vote to defy state law based merely on personal hostility to LGBT students’ rights, it suggests a troubling anti-equality radicalism that makes him even more unfit to serve on the North Carolina Board of Education than previously supposed.

Equality North Carolina opposes his appointment to the Board and has asked the Governor to reconsider it.

Let’s take a brief step back to explain what we know so far:

North Carolina Approves Sexual-Orientation-Inclusive and Gender-Identity-Inclusive Law

In 2009, North Carolina enacted a new anti-bullying law, requiring all school districts in the state to adopt, by the end of that year, a comprehensive policy “prohibiting bullying or harassing behavior.” Among several other requirements, the law mandated that the local policies define prohibited conduct to include certain harassing or bullying behavior where it is “reasonably perceived as being motivated by any actual or perceived differentiating characteristic,” such as “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.”

Reports: Buddy Collins Resists the Mandate

The Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School Board of Education, on which Buddy Collins served at the time, voted in 2009 to approve a new local policy to ensure the district complied with the new state law.

News sources indicate, however, that Collins—a longtime Board member—voted to reject the state-mandated changes.

North Carolina Drawn on School Green Board in ChalkA July 2009 article from the Winston-Salem Journal, for example, explained that the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Board of Education “gave preliminary approval to a policy revision that added sexual orientation to the list of characteristics in its rules prohibiting bullying and harassing behavior”; this change was “necessary,” the article pointed out, “to put the local school system in compliance with state-mandated policy.” Nevertheless, “Board member Buddy Collins voted against the motion.”

And a 2009 article from qnotes reported that “[t]he largest public school systems in North Carolina have taken or are in the process of taking the steps necessary to comply with the [state’s] new School Violence Prevention Act“; and while “updated policies in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools were adopted on Aug. 11,” local board member Buddy Collins, along with two others, “voted against the inclusive, state-mandated changes.”

Explaining the Resistance: Collins’ Hostility to LGBT Equality

It’s clear from these reports that Collins opposed local policy changes even though the state had required them; the only question remaining, then, is why. Given the other information we have, it appears highly likely that his attempt to defy state law stems simply from personal hostility toward LGBT equality.

Equality North Carolina has compiled a useful list of Collins’ troubling statements and actions on LGBT issues. Collins has frequently criticized the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), for example; his statements have mis-characterized the organization and its anti-bullying work. Collins apparently believes, for example, that GLSEN has “an agenda to use public schools as a place to seek acceptance of its sexual practices.”

According to GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard, who was quoted in a Huffington Post article, “Buddy Collins has always been a retrograde voice, inimical to the interests of youth, on the school board.”

The same Huffington Post piece quotes Matt Comer, who went to school in Collins’ district: “It was not just that teachers or coaches were making anti-gay comments, but school board members were making anti-gay comments too,” Comer says. “So from the very top down, there was a very open, well-known and well-documented hostility toward LGBT people from the adults in our lives.”

Buddy Collins has also had harsh words for marriage equality. He publicly lamented in 2002, for example, that “[m]any of our schools must account for . . . same-sex unions that a generation ago would have been ridiculed as perverse and illegal.”

Given this record, it’s difficult to imagine that his vote to defy state law in 2009 was based on anything other than personal hostility to LGBT equal rights. In any event, I’ve seen nothing to suggest any alternative rationale for his resisting the state-mandated amendments on LGBT equality.

Collins is Unfit to Serve on the State Board of Education

Collins’ 2009 vote to defy state law makes him particularly unfit to serve on the state Board of Education.

Of course, many of his other anti-gay statements and actions (like those noted above) already indicate that he is unfit to serve in the new position.

But his vote to place the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools out of compliance with state anti-bullying requirements reveals an anti-equality radicalism that raises particular concern. Collins does not merely oppose LGBT equality: He is willing to defy the law to deny students protections against anti-LGBT bullying and harassment.

Equality North Carolina explains how you can take action to oppose Collins:

Equality NC encourages its supporters to contact Gov. McCrory’s office at (919) 733-5811, and ask that he protect *all* North Carolina students by reconsidering his nomination of Buddy Collins. Supporters can also send an e-mail, fax or tweet request via the Office of the Governor website at www.governor.state.nc.us/contact.

[Unfortunate Update: The legislature has now approved Collins’ appointment.] [November 2013 Update: Collins has received another appointment, this time to serve on a school safety task force (?!)]