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HomeGeneralPennsylvania School Board Uninvites Gay Actor for Anti-Bullying Talk Over His “Lifestyle”

Pennsylvania School Board Uninvites Gay Actor for Anti-Bullying Talk Over His “Lifestyle”

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a picture of Maulik Pancholy.
Source: Pinterest

Maulik Pancholy was to give an anti-bullying speech at Mountain View Middle School in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. The Cumberland Valley School District canceled his speaking engagement due to concerns about his political activities and, as described by two school board members, his “lifestyle.”

During the meeting, Bud Shaffner, a board member, voiced his concerns about Pancholy’s activism and lifestyle. Another board member, Kelly Potteiger expressed concern that Pancholy might discuss his children’s book, “The Best at It,” which tells the story of a gay Indian American youngster.

Potteiger explained that she wanted to discuss Pancholy’s lifestyle, not discriminate against it. Pancholy is known for his roles as the voice of Baljeet in “Phineas and Ferb” and as Alec Baldwin’s ardent assistant on “30 Rock.”

On Pancholy’s website, the award-winning author gives keynote speeches on “diversity and inclusion.” Pancholy is a self-proclaimed activist who served on President Obama’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. But the school board worried he might go off course or go on a political tangent.

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Opinions on the decision have varied. In an Instagram message, Pancholy thanked the community for their support and togetherness. “I visit schools and actively make the youth aware that they are being seen through my activism,” he said.

A former Mountain View Middle School student, Tony Conte, posted an open letter on Facebook to Shaffner. Conte reminisced on his experience as a closeted gay kid, saying he “considered suicide from time to time.”

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“Like a lot of ‘different’ kids, I was teased for reasons I didn’t understand, and I had quite a lot of difficulty building friendships and growing into the healthy mindset that it was okay to be a little different.”

Conte stated that in high school, he became acquainted with another “very different kid.” “Before we could become close and confide our challenges in each other, he hung himself,” Conte wrote.

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“I think that if I had heard from diverse voices like (Pancholy’s) in an auditorium setting telling me that it was okay to be different, maybe my middle and high school experience could have been different,” he went on. “A presentation of this sort could have saved a life, like the life of my friend.”

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The postponement of Pancholy’s speech highlights the current controversy surrounding activism, inclusion, and acceptable discussion topics in classrooms. Establishing safe spaces for conversation while honoring different points of view is crucial. 

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