Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Gay advocates oppose Buddy Collins appointment by Governor McCrory

Verne Strickland Blogmaster / April 3, 2013


Posted: Tuesday, April 2, 2013 8:11 pm 
Another one of Gov. Pat McCrory’s appointments from Forsyth County is hitting a roadblock.

Equality NC, a gay-rights advocacy group, is calling for McCrory to rescind the appointment of Kernersville lawyer A.L. “Buddy” Collins to the State Board of Education.

Collins, a member of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Board of Education since 1996, received national attention this week for what’s being called an “anti-gay” record. An article published last week by The Huffington Post cited votes that Collins cast in 2002 and 2003 that have been seen as anti-gay.

Collins could not be reached for comment this week, but school communications specialist Kim Underwood said Collins felt misrepresented by The Huffington Post article.

The story has ignited yet another controversy for the McCrory administration. In February, a firestorm erupted around Dianna Lightfoot, a Winston-Salem woman who was selected to head the state’s pre-K programs.

Lightfoot stepped down from the post before her official start date after news reports that a nonprofit she runs has questioned the value of early childhood education and pre-K programs.Now, Equality NC is asking supporters to call McCrory’s office and ask that he reconsider Collins’ appointment.

“Gov. McCrory should reconsider his appointment of Buddy Collins to the State Board of Education,” said Stuart Campbell, executive director of Equality NC, in a statement posted to the group’s website. “Surely, there are others Gov. McCrory could appoint that would protect the rights of all North Carolina students.”

In 2002, Collins voted against a proposal that would specifically prohibit bullying based on sexual orientation in Winston-Salem/Forsyth County schools. At the time, Collins said that he does not support homosexuality, but that his personal views had nothing to do with his vote. Collins said the district’s discrimination policy already prohibited bullying of any student, so the addition was unnecessary.

“I think it has everything to do with whether people who are gay and lesbian have some sort of special right that everybody else doesn’t,” Collins said at the time. “This request could have been made by people with overweight children or kids with glasses or any other thing that children pick on other children for.
“Our position with the school system is that all children are not to be harassed or bullied."

In 2003, Collins voted to remove questions about harassment because of sexual orientation from the student portion of a school climate survey.

Matt Comer, a former Forsyth County student, told The Huffington Post that Collins was the “ringleader” in efforts to keep LGBT support organizations out of the schools.

Both votes, supported by a majority of the school board, came despite impassioned pleas by the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network of Winston-Salem. In a 2002 editorial, published in the Winston-Salem Journal, Collins said GLSEN was using public schools as a place “to seek acceptance of its sexual practices.”

In that same 2002 editorial, Collins wrote that he did not support gay marriage or lifestyle, but believed in equal protection from bullying and harassment for all students.

“Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens have the same right to equal protection of our laws and the same expectation of privacy enjoyed by all other citizens,” Collins wrote. “As a society we can and will tolerate their difference. Tolerance and compassion are worthy virtues. On the other hand, public endorsement of a homosexual union and homosexual practices is another matter entirely.”

Superintendent Don Martin said Collins has enforced district policies for all students who have been bullied, including gay students.

“Personal feelings are personal feelings, and we all have them,” Martin said. “He (Collins) has protected all students. I think they (board members) have all been interested in protecting all students.”

Board member Jeannie Metcalf was also mentioned in The Huffington Post story for alleged anti-gay rhetoric. When reached Tuesday, Metcalf declined to comment.

McCrory’s office did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

McCrory’s three State Board of Education appointments require approval by the General Assembly.
Rep. Donny Lambeth, R-Forsyth, served on the school board with Collins before stepping down to join the General Assembly this year. Lambeth said he supports Collins’ appointment.

“He’s been a strong anti-bullying advocate,” Lambeth said. “He has multiple years on the school board, with really a lot of challenges over the years.

“He brings a wealth of experience to the state school board that they could use.”

aherron@wsjournal.com