Photo: Indiana Teacher Responds to Another's Words on Gay Students

An unlikely but passionate rift has heated up in a Southern Indiana school district over the concept of prom events for opposite- and same-gender student pairs. First, Diana Medley, a special education teacher in the Northeast School Corporation in Sullivan County, made remarks to a WTWO-TV (Terre Haute) reporter that set the Internet and regional and even national media atwitter. Outside of a planning meeting for a strictly opposite-sex-dating prom in the school district, she said, in response to the interviewer’s question about whether she thinks gay people have “some purpose in life”: “I don’t. I personally don’t, I’m sorry. I don’t understand it.” In the same TV news report, Bill Phegley, a pastor at Carlisle Christian Church, makes statements considered incendiary by some and to be treasured by others, saying Christians are always “prepared for a fight” and that Jesus gives them “armor for the front, not the back” so as not to run away from that fight.

Now, a 30-year-old teacher and Indianapolis resident has responded by way of a Facebook post that has gone viral. Nate Walden, a middle-school teacher in a district north of Indy, posted a photo of himself with the caption “Diana Medley should not be teaching…” as he held a sign bearing these words: “Hey, Diana Medley! I’m an Indiana teacher too, & my gay students do have a purpose. I support my students regardless of sexual orientation! Support Sullivan High School’s LGBT students.” (See image at top-right of this post. Disclosure: Walden is an acquaintance of the author.)

Walden’s post incited a riot of response, with hundreds of Facebook shares of the content overnight, and 1,240 shares as of the publishing of this post at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 12. Contacted for comment, he said, “I thought I might get a few other teachers to voice support. I did not think I’d get 1,000 shares in under 24 hours.”

As for what catalyzed the post, he said, “I read an article about the prom a few days ago. I found it disgusting. Then yesterday I heard the quote from Diana Medley. That took it from a couple close-minded people being dramatic to a teacher saying some of her students had no purpose. I just needed to vent.” He continued: “I had a former student contact me a couple weeks ago. He’s a senior. He had to transfer between schools because of the bullying in our high school, and ended up in counseling.”

Here’s the TV news clip that caused this latest stir, with Medley and Phegley’s interviews:

A Facebook group has been set up that calls for an integrated (gay and straight combined) prom: Support the Sullivan High School Prom for All Students. At press time, that group had 17,925 “likes.” Another event entirely, the Sullivan Solidarity Ball, is also in the works, with 75 “likes” to date. A petition was also started, by Indianapolis resident Jay Michaels, that calls for disciplinary action against Medley, including termination.

What do you think of this situation?