A Colorado high school has sparked furor after a homosexual coach said they tried to make him renounce his orientation. Inoke Tonga had worked at Valor Christian High school since last year without incident. However, he’s now refusing to bow to the school’s wishes — and students and parents are backing him up.
A Shocking Meeting
On Saturday, August 21, Tonga shared a Facebook post detailing a recent conversation with school administrators. To the coach’s surprise and dismay, the conversation turned to his sexual orientation.
“I sat in the room being grilled about how being Gay is a ‘danger’ to the school and to the kids,” Tonga wrote. The administrators told him that “they can’t put the kids at risk by having me in front of them,” he said.
“They even went as far as telling me, ‘parents pay too much money to have their kids be coached and taught by someone like you who identifies as a gay man,” Tonga continued.
The school administrators also questioned whether Tonga is actually gay, and ultimately asked him to denounce his sexual orientation in order to keep his job.
“I was not going to ‘denounce identifying as a gay man’ — which, according to them, would lead to me being released as a coach,” Tonga said.
Following the meeting, Tonga sent the school an email explaining his position — that he “can be a gay man and a child of God,” as he told CNN. However, the school has yet to respond to his outreach.
Instead, the school sent an email to parents and students claiming that Tonga left the position because he is struggling with a “spiritual battle.”
The school also defended its actions in a statement to the Denver Post.
“Valor Christian High School embraces, loves and respects all students, families and other participants in our community, regardless of whether or not they agree with Valor’s beliefs,” the statement read. “Although Coach Inoke has misrepresented many aspects of this matter, Valor appreciates the contributions he has made to the student athletes in our volleyball program, and we wish him the very best in his future endeavors.”
A History of LGBTQ Discrimination?
The school has had issues with dismissing homosexual staff members in the past. Former lacrosse coach Lauren Benner told The Denver Channel she lost her coaching position at the school after coming out.
“Essentially, if I decided that I wanted to pursue a relationship with another female, I would no longer by in alignment with Valor’s culture statement, and I would be asked to leave,” Benner said of the ultimatum she received from the school.
After hearing about Tonga’s story, Benner shared her experience on Instagram, prompting a groundswell of support.
“I’ve gotten a lot of messages from students and from former players that are in support, and it’s been truly overwhelming,” Benner said.
Tonga has also received the support of members of the community, including students and parents. Local dad Robert Galop, whose two children attend Valor, spoke to CNN about the coach’s predicament.
“That world view is just not consistent with where we are at today,” Galop said of the school’s position.
“What they’ve done to this coach, and especially seeing the quotes that have come out from the administration, is gut-wrenching,” the father continued.
On Tuesday, August 24, some 30 students at Valor staged a walkout in support of Tonga.
“Reading the statements from Coach Inoke broke my heart to hear that they called him a danger to the school,” 16-year-old student Lucy Sarkissian told CBS 4. “For every queer teen sitting at this school right now, to hear that they are a danger, breaks their heart.”