FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, May 7, 2012
Contact: Wayne Besen
Burlington, Vt. – Truth Wins Out condemned Prince of Peace Catholic school today for refusing to allow outstanding high school senior, Keaton Fuller, to receive Iowa’s Matthew Shepard Scholarship at his school’s awards ceremony on May 20. It appears that the institution may have buckled under pressure from the hierarchy, because Prince of Peace had confirmed two months ago that a Scholarship Committee Member could present the award. A petition was launched today urging the principal to allow Fuller to get his award on-stage.
“We were pleased that Prince of Peace promised to support all of their students,” said Eychaner Foundation Executive Director Michael Bowser. “We had faith that their written agreement would mean something.”
“It is difficult to understand how after I have spent thirteen years at this school and worked hard during all of them, I would be made to feel that my accomplishments are less than everybody else’s,” wrote Fuller in a letter to the student body and staff. “This whole ordeal has been incredibly hurtful, and I am even sadder that this will be one of my last experiences to remember my high school years by.”
Ironically, Keaton learned about the scholarship program, and was encouraged to apply, by Prince of Peace. The school also issued a signed statement that a Committee Member would be allowed to present the award to Keaton at the ceremony if he was selected for the scholarship.
“The school ought to change its name to Prince of Prejudice unless it acts responsibly and reverses course,” said Truth Wins Out’s Executive Director Wayne Besen. “The two lessons that this school is imparting to students are that one does not have to stand by their word and that intolerance is a positive virtue. It is heartbreaking that they are humiliating a student that they ought to instead be celebrating in honor of his achievements.”
Iowa’s Matthew Shepard Scholarship is a program of the Eychaner Foundation in Des Moines. The program invests in distinguished Iowa high school students who are openly lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. The $40,000 scholarship to the University of Iowa was awarded to Keaton for his scholastic achievement and work reducing homophobia in his school and community as an openly gay student.
Keaton’s parents, Randy and Patricia Fuller, stand behind their son and are upset that he will not be recognized at the awards ceremony with his classmates. Keaton is releasing the following open letter requesting the school recognize all student awards equally:
To: The Prince of Peace Student Body and Staff
Being the lone openly gay student in a small, Catholic school has not always been easy. Upon first realizing I was gay, I suffered a lot of anxiety over wondering how everybody in this school would treat me if I were to tell people the truth about my sexual orientation. When I did begin to tell people, I was pleasantly surprised and touched to find that nearly everybody treated me with the same acceptance and respect as they always had. I have always been very grateful to all of you for this.
This past March, I was made aware by our school of an incredible scholarship opportunity. The Matthew Shepard Scholarship is awarded to a few LGBT students across the state of Iowa each year by the Eychaner Foundation in honor of a young man who was beaten and later died because of his sexual orientation. The purpose of the scholarship is not only to honor the recipients for their efforts working for the acceptance of the LGBT community, but also to raise awareness and understanding throughout the state.
After becoming one of eight finalists interviewed, I was very excited. The moment I was told that I had been awarded a 2012 Gold Matthew Shepard Scholarship was one of the happiest of my life. It made me feel that my efforts had truly paid off. When word got around about this achievement, I received a great deal of praise from many of you, for which I am extremely grateful.
Part of receiving this generous scholarship includes having a member of the scholarship committee present the award at each student’s graduation or awards ceremonies. This protocol was communicated to the school as part of the scholarship materials and the scholarship committee received written confirmation that should a scholarship be awarded, a representative from the scholarship committee would be allowed to present it in person to me at graduation. Upon being selected for the award in very early April, the scholarship committee wrote to the school confirming that a committee member would present the award on May 20th.
However, on Friday, April 27th, my family and I were told by the school that a member of the foundation would not be permitted to present this award at graduation. The scholarship committee has not been notified of this decision and my family has been put in the middle, so my family has asked for a reversal of the decision.
I have never felt as invalidated and unaccepted as I have upon hearing the news that the scholarship that I have worked so hard for not just in the application process, but also in my deportment and actions over the years, would not be recognized in the way that it should at the graduation ceremony It is difficult to understand how after I have spent thirteen years at this school and worked hard during all of them, I would be made to feel that my accomplishments are less than everybody else’s. This whole ordeal has been incredibly hurtful, and I am even sadder that this will be one of my last experiences to remember my high school years by.
This is a teachable moment for Prince of Peace to stand up against rejecting and invalidating the accomplishments of any student. Please help me by respectfully requesting that this decision be reversed. Share your thoughts about why all students deserve to be treated with respect and dignity at Prince of Peace.
Keaton M. Fuller
Truth Wins Out is a nonprofit organization that fights anti-LGBT extremism. TWO specializes in turning information into action by organizing, advocating and fighting for LGBT equality.