Several students organized a walkout this week after their former volleyball coach claimed that he was forced to quit because he was gay.
Students and parents organized a walkout at Valor Christian High School, located in Highlands Ranch, in Colorado. According to organizers, about 50 students, parents, and alumni joined together in the protest.
The protest was inspired by a Facebook post made by Inoke Tonga, a local man who had previously taught volleyball at Valor Christian. Tonga joined Valor Christian in 2020 to lead the girls' volleyball team. While support had initially been positive for Tonga, things changed after he was invited to meet with the campus pastor and athletic director about being gay. "I sat in the room being grilled about how being gay is a danger to the school and the kids," Tonga wrote. "That with me identifying as a gay man, they can't put the kids at risk by having me in front of them." He was given the option to denounce being gay. Tonga declined to do so, leading to him quitting his position.
In response to press requests, Valor replied that "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." However, Valor notes that "As a Christian faith community, Valor requires its staff, faculty, and volunteer leaders — those who represent the Valor community and guide the spiritual development of our students — to agree with Valor's Christian beliefs set forth in our Statement of Beliefs and in other policies, and to live in accordance with such beliefs." These beliefs included adherence to a traditional sexual ethic. Tonga had been required to sign a statement affirming his agreement with Valor's views.
The school had discovered evidence of Tonga posting pro-LGBT content on his Facebook feed, thus leading to the questioning and eventual firing.
The protest organizer, a student named Lucy Sarkissian, said she had often been disgusted by the way students and teachers handled LGBTQ issues. "There are times where teachers refuse to respect how to speak to trans students," she told the local newspaper. "I have heard teachers comparing gay people to horses. What happened to Coach Inoke gives the community a much-needed voice on this issue and what Valor is doing. It gives a voice to the rights that gay people deserve."