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Sunday, May 5, 2013

Imboden superintendent: Disputes accounts on gay graduation speaker, says no outside speakers in future

Posted By on Sun, May 5, 2013 at 10:01 AM

NO INVITATION: Imboden Superintendent Mitch Walton issues statement on controversy over gay commencement speaker.
  • NO INVITATION: Imboden Superintendent Mitch Walton issues statement on controversy over gay commencement speaker.
From Imboden Live this sleepy Sunday comes breaking news over the viral story about TV producer Bryant Huddleston's complaint that a plan to have him speak at graduation of his alma mater, Imboden's Sloan-Hendrix High School, was scrapped because he's gay.

School Superintendent Mitch Walton has issued a statement posted at the website, which triggered this news event in the first place. In short, he says everybody has it wrong and Imboden will never again have outside commercement speakers. The statement:

Sloan-Hendrix has had individuals to speak at graduation in the past. Contrary to what has been said, no invitation was extended this year to anyone. As superintendent, I have the authority to decide about who the speaker will be or whether we have a speaker at all. The school board does not vote on speakers for graduation.

This year, Mr. Steve Huddleston, a board member, suggested his son as a speaker. Bryant Huddleston graduated from Sloan-Hendrix in 1990 and went on to success in the entertainment industry. He was never invited by me to be the graduation speaker. After visiting informally with board members, no agreement was reached as to who should be invited to speak. Therefore, my decision was to do what had been discussed in the past—to discontinue the use of outside speakers and thereby shorten an already lengthy graduation program.

Sloan-Hendrix has exceptional graduates. Graduation this year and in the future will feature only student speakers. Graduation is a celebration of the accomplishments of Sloan- Hendrix students and a time to let those students shine for their families and the community at large. We welcome the presence of everyone in the community to share in this event.

Mitch Walton
Superintendent Sloan-Hendrix School District

Well. You can read past items about this here and also here and decide if this is artful dodging of what's become a national topic.

Bryant Huddleston commented on Facebook:

I read it over the phone to my father. He blew out my right ear from laughter

I also will add some relative links about past practice on graduation speakers.

In 2005, a state representative, David Cook.

In 2006, the man who's now head of the state Education Department, Tom Kimbrell.

In 2007, a Pocahontas doctor.

In 2009, a minister from the Imboden Church of Christ.

In 2010, an official from Williams Baptist College.

In 2011, a director of communication for Entergy Services.

In 2012, Paul Austin, an Imboden native and director of the Arkansas Humanities Council.

Don't know about 2008. Maybe somebody tried to sneak some gay in that year, too, and no agreement could be reached.

PS — "visiting informally with school board members." If two members were present in any discussions — formal or informal — the superintendent was in violation of the state open meetings law. Round-robin conversations to avoid the open meetings law can also be problematic when decisions are reached in such a fashion.

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