School District Cites ‘Lifestyle’ In Nixing Gay Actor’s Speech

( – A Pennsylvania school board canceled a planned speech by a gay actor, citing his political activism and “lifestyle.” Maulik Pancholy, a children’s author and award-winning actor, was due to speak at Mountain View Middle School in Cumberland County in May, but at a recent board meeting, members voted to scrap the event amid concerns about the author’s sexuality and political views. Board member Bud Shaffner reportedly said, “He is proud of his lifestyle, and I don’t think that should be imposed upon our students.”

Mr. Pancholy’s first book, “The Best At It,” won a Stonewall Honor Book award for its depiction of a gay Indian boy but is banned in Florida’s schools under the state’s Parental Rights in Education laws. His second book, “Nikhil Out Loud,” won the 2023 Lambda Literary Award.

School director Brian Drapp justified scrapping Pancholy’s speech, saying the board adopted a strict policy in 2016 to disallow overtly political presentations. The Cumberland Valley Board allowed a Donald Trump rally that year and received so much criticism that it opted to avoid politics from then on.

Pancholy responded to the cancellation on Instagram, saying his “heart goes out” to the students and wondering why the school board objected to his philosophy that everyone deserves to be “seen.”

Media reports state that some parents and students accused the board of homophobia, with some starting online petitions to have the talk reinstated. However, West Shore resident Lois Kaneshiki agreed with the decision and wants more conservative voices elected to school boards nationwide.

Mr. Pancholy describes his political involvement on his website and notes that he supports the annual Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Day Against Bullying and Hate and was appointed chairman of President Obama’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in 2014. In a Huffington Post article in 2017, he wrote that half of Asian Americans report being bullied in school, including two-thirds of Sikhs and half of Muslims.

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