Students and alumni at Vestal High School in
Tennessee New York are outraged that a portrait of State Sen. Stacey Campfield hangs in the school’s Hall of Fame.They can’t believe the school system would celebrate the guy who introduced Tennessee’s “don’t say gay” bill, called bullying “the biggest lark out there,” dismissed AIDS as a “gay disease” and claimed the virus was introduced into the human population by “one guy screwing a monkey.”
Go figure. (Did we mention Campfield is 44, unmarried and twinkles when he smiles? Just saying.)
So, the group petitioned the Vestal Board of Education to have the picture taken down and Campfield, who graduated in 1986 and made the Hall of Fame in 2008, stricken from the honor rolls.
But at a meeting last week, the board said it disagreed with Campfield’s position, but respected his first Amendment rights and wouldn’t drum him out. Many in attendance disagreed with the call:
“If I as a teacher spewed his homophobic rhetoric, I would be fired on the spot,” said John Perricone, a Vestal Class of 1977 graduate who has taught at Maine-Endwell High School for 29 years. “If the students of your school made the comments, they would likely be suspended.”
Connor Henderson, currently a junior at Vestal High, told the board he was “disgusted that a person like Campfield would be considered a shining star.”
Superintendent Mark LaRoach said he believed Vestal students were informed enough to challenge Campfield’s rhetoric without it being officially censored: “It’s certainly something we take seriously [and] I think our students are well-prepared to handle this.”
In an email to the Press & Sun-Bulletin, Campfield said his detractors were welcome to their point of view, but he was standing by his homophobia. “While I do not hate them I do not support sodomy. The homosexual lifestyle is dangerous and deadly.”
This isn’t the first time Campfield’s hateful remarks have cost him: Earlier this year Bistro on the Bijou owner Martha Boggs denied the senator service at her Knoxville cafe. “I didn’t want his hate in my restaurant…,” she told reporters. “I feel like he’s gone from being stupid to being dangerous, and I wanted to stand up to him.”
We’re glad more people feel the same.