An upcoming speech by former presidential candidate Rick
Santorum has been canceled by a school district in Michigan, citing
an unwillingness to accept the former Pennsylvania senator's
supposed "divisive" stances on traditional marriage.
In a phone call with Young America's Foundation's Vice President
Patrick Coyle on Monday, Grosse Pointe Public School System
Superintendent Dr. Thomas Harwood will not allow the
already-approved speech at Grosse Pointe South Public High School
by Santorum because of the senator's stances on some policy issues,
namely traditional marriage and education. The school's Young
Americans for Freedom group, the chapter affiliate of Young
America's Foundation, invited Santorum to the school.
"The Freedom chapter came to us and wanted to see if Senator
Santorum could come to the high school and speak to the students.
Weeks ago, I participated in a call with the school principal, Dr.
Matt Outlaw, and the chapter chairman, Langston Bowens. During the
call, Outlaw signed off on the event," Coyle said.
But on Monday's call, Superintendent Harwood told Coyle that
they were canceling the event.
Coyle explained to Harwood that the school district already
approved Senator Santorum's speech and its topic on leadership. But
when Senator Santorum's speech was announced, teachers within the
school district sent videos to administrators showcasing some of
Senator Santorum's past statements on traditional marriage and
As the conversation continued, Coyle said that the
administrators became more and more agitated as Coyle hopelessly
explained that Senator Santorum's speech would be about leadership.
Harwood then said that he supports traditional marriage, but has a
brother who is gay, and he finds Santorum's views "extreme."
"Superintendent Harwood is injecting his own personal views into
the situation and subsequently keeping students from hearing from
an American public policy leader discuss the importance of being a
leader in their school and community," Coyle said.
Langston Bowens, chairman of the school's Young Americans for
Freedom chapter, who contacted Coyle to see if Senator Santorum
could come to the school, said: "I personally view this action an
inherent censorship of student voices at Grosse Pointe South. These
actions are shameful."
Late Monday, Outlaw e-mailed parents informing them of the
As a follow-up to the proposed assembly on April 24th, I
wanted to thank the many staff members that shared additional
information about the potential speaker. Based on this information
and a few other items, I am announcing that we are declining the
invitation to have Rick Santorum speak to our student body. Dr.
Harwood is very supportive of this decision and we feel that we
were mislead [sic] in a few areas with
this. Peter Fox [the vice chairman of Young Americans for
Freedom], in particular, was amazing through this process and
showed such maturity today as we declined the invitation for the
speech. I am so sorry for the angst that this may have caused, but
please plan for a regular day of school on April 24th.
Dr. Matt Outlaw
"Education is based on the free flow of ideas. I am disappointed
with the position the school has taken regarding the proposed
event, and I stand fully behind YAF," Grosse Pointe South YAF vice
chairman Peter Fox said.
Squelching freedom of speech isn't new in this school district.
At Grosse Pointe North High School, YAF chairman Grant
to hang "Respect All Women" posters in the high school to
celebrate Women's History Month, but the school principal, Tim
Bearden, initially refused to sign off on the posters because he
found them "vitriolic and inappropriate." This week, however, the
posters were finally approved, only after being heavily
On Tuesday, Bowens met with Outlaw, who, according to Bowens,
remains supportive of bringing Senator Santorum to Grosse Pointe