Civil rights in Imboden: A new lesson for Sloan-Hendrix students | Arkansas Blog

Civil rights in Imboden: A new lesson for Sloan-Hendrix students

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The previous post relates the story of Bryant Huddleston, a former TV news anchor and successful TV producer whose invitation to speak at his high school alma mater, Imboden's Sloan-Hendrix High School, was withdrawn because at least two School Board members didn't think a gay man should speak at graduation. As he poignantly recounted, it was a continuation of the difficult experience he had as a student at the high school.

SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT: Mitch Walton. Follow him on Twitter.
Rooting around on the school district website this morning, I noted a link with contact information for the school district, should you like to write the school district or Superintendent Mitch Walton, who reportedly forced the issue.

I was interested to note, too, a link to a unit on civil rights taught across several classes at the high school this year. It focused on the struggle by African-Americans and the work included several flyers developed by students, including the one I've shown at the top. Perhaps next year the unit could be expanded to other people struggling for equal treatment under the law.

Minutes of school board meetings don't reflect the vote reported on Huddleston's scheduled appearance at his sister's graduation ceremony. This is the vote in which Huddleston said his father, School Board President Steve Huddleston, a retired state trooper, was reportedly not allowed to participate. Huddleston identified School Board members Preston Clark of Imboden and Dr. Aaron Murphy of Imboden as the key votes against his appearance. This news account indicates, however, that the decision was reached privately by the superintendent and some of the board members.

Steve Huddleston said he spoke to the other board members, and that two said they wouldn't oppose his son speaking but that two others "thought there would be backlash if we allowed an openly gay man to speak."

Pop quiz for an Imboden civics class: When government officials deny speech on account of the potential message, do any of our founding documents come to mind?

BRYANT HUDDLESTON: Facebook photo he posted with his son.
  • BRYANT HUDDLESTON: Facebook photo he posted with his son.
A quick Google shows the story is spreading far and wide. Brave comment, given the prevailing local sentiment, can be found on the imbodenlive.com websiteabout the withdrawn speaking invitation.

... This decision saddens me for many reasons. The first being I know Bryant. He is a fellow Class of 1990 Sloan- Hendrix graduate. I moved to Imboden my junior year of high school and he was one of the first and one of the few people who made me feel welcome as a shy new kid coming into a school where tight-knit friendships went back years.

He’s gone on in life to meet some impressive personal success as a television producer in California and a father to a son whom he is quite proud of. Bryant’s sisters are Sloan-Hendrix graduates as well and his father, Steve Huddleston, has served on our school board for ten years.

This makes me sad because I love this little town and I want the best for our school. I know the men involved in making our schools decisions and these are not bad men. This isn’t a town of full of bigots nor do I believe that intolerance and prejudice is something the majority of people who live here condone . If a few people who represent our school denying Bryant the opportunity to speak at graduation based only on his sexual preference and their personal beliefs then is that the right decision for our community as a whole? I don’t see how it can be.

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