News update: E-mails on Imboden graduation controversy, more | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

News update: E-mails on Imboden graduation controversy, more

Posted By on Tue, May 7, 2013 at 6:40 PM

Some late arriving news item:

IN THEN OUT: Bryant Huddlestons status as Imboden graduation speaker.
  • IN THEN OUT: Bryant Huddleston's status as Imboden graduation speaker.
* IMBODEN SUPERINTENDENT DID TALK ABOUT BRYANT HUDDLESTON AS GRADUATION SPEAKER: We've been writing about the complaint by California TV producer and former KAIT anchor Bryant Huddleston that an invitation for him to speak to this year's graduating class at Sloan-Hendrix High School in Imboden had been withdrawn because he is gay.

Since then, Superintendent Mitch Walton has said there was no formal invitation. Huddleston's father Steve, president of the School Board, has said there had indeed been discussions in January about having Bryant speak, but objections from two school board members, Preston Clark and Aaron Murphy, had led Walton to decide to have no graduation speaker at all.

Community opinion has been sharply divided, with many staking out the position on a local news website that it was a blow for morality to prevent a gay man (successful and a father notwithstanding) from speaking, no matter whether he intended to talk about homosexuality or not. Huddleston has said he was going to speak about continuing education and to encourage women, such as his sister, a graduating senior, to take positions of leadership.

Today, I asked for and received from Supt. Walton some e-mails he'd written to board members that touched on the subject. He still isn't granting interviews. But to those who think the matter was closed by Walton's previous — and continuing insistence — that no invitation was made, I think you might agree that Steve Huddleston's story dovetails with some of this new information.

January 21, in a lengthy e-mail about various matters, Walton mentioned to board members:

I am planning to ask Col. Witt to speak at our Graduation exercise in May.

A State Police spokesman said State Police Director Stan Witt, himself from Imboden, had never received an invitation to speak from the superintendent. Huddleston has said, after Walton mentioned Witt, that he reminded the superintendent of their earlier conversation about having his son return home to speak at his alma mater. March 5, Walton wrote the following to the School Board

Gentlemen

I meant to mention this to you at the last board meeting, but did not get the "graduation speaker" on the discussion log. A few months ago, Steve H had asked to give consideration to allow his son, Bryant Huddleston, for commencement speaker at the graduation ceremony for the class of 2013 in May. Since Steve was board president and Madicyn was graduating, he wanted to include Bryant as the speaker.

I told Steve that I did not have a problem with this. I usually mention who the graduation speaker will be to all the school board members (and usually it is later in the spring before I have somebody lined up). Please let me know you thoughts. I will need to confirm with Bryant as soon as possible if okay with other board members. Thanks!

The document sent to me added:

Reply from one board member

Sounds like a good idea to me. Robert

By Huddleston's account, two of the five members expressed reservations. No invitation was extended. Bryant Huddleston eventually wrote his letter of protest.

The superintendent's own e-mail indicates he intended to ask Bryant to speak. Then it didn't happen. Is there really much doubt that Steve Huddleston has reflected accurately what happened, that his son's sexual orientation made him an unacceptable speaker?

Walton is trying to cover for the board that hires him. He seems, at the outset at least, not to have been influenced by what I've been led to believe is general knowledge of Bryant Huddleston's sexual orientation. But community wishes are strong. Check out Imboden Live to see how deep feelings about homosexuality run and how openly the antipathy is expressed. I hope even those who hold those views might have a shred of sympathy for Bryant's account of how difficult his high school years had been as a closeted gay youth and why he decided to make a stand against prejudice for the benefit of others in the same position.

Bryant didn't speak because he's gay. Many in the community, including a leading banker and dentist who are school board members, support that decision. Sad.

* REPEAL OBAMACARE: As promised, teabagger Glenn Gallus of Garland County has begun trying to qualify a petition for the ballot to repeal the legislature's implementation of Obamacare through Medicaid financing of private insurance coverage. Attorney General Dustin McDaniel has rejected his first try at a ballot title and popular name. McDaniel said Gallas' proposal had not fairly and accurately summarized the legislation being referred.

* CATCHING UP WITH AN ESCAPED KILLER: The Detroit newspaper carries a good AP feature on a convicted Arkansas killer, Lester Stiggers, who escaped in 1970 and has been living openly in Michigan for 43 years thanks to sanctuary granted by a moderate Republican governor who disapproved of conditions in Arkansas's then-medieval prisons. Arkansas has recently renewed efforts to bring him back. The law's on Arkansas's side, though Michigan sympathizers think justice won't be served by extradition.

* NORTH LITTLE ROCK ADMINISTRATOR TO TAKE OVER DOLLARWAY: State Education Director Tom Kimbrell has named North Little Rock Assistant Superintendent Bobby Acklin to head the Dollarway School District July 1. Frank Anthony has been serving as interim superintendent since the state took over the troubled district last June.

* THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL TO DC: Enough dreaming. South Carolina voters in a majority white predominantly Republican district will not send a Democrat to Congress, not even when the Republican is the conniving, philandering, cold-blooded Mark Sanford. The race has been called for Sanford, about 54-46 last i looked.

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