Head of school that hosted anti-gay band resigns
DUNKERTON, Iowa (AP) — The principal of an Iowa secondary school that allowed members of a Christian rock band to espouse their anti-gay, anti-abortion views while showing students images of fetuses that had apparently been aborted is resigning, the district superintendent said.
Mike Cooper, who oversees grades 7-12 at the school in Dunkerton, will tender his resignation Monday and remain on the job through the end of the school year, Dunkerton Superintendent Jim Stanton told the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier for a story published Tuesday.
Cooper declined to comment to the newspaper Tuesday about his pending departure, and he did not immediately respond Wednesday to a phone message left at his office by The Associated Press.
Stanton said Cooper's decision is not related to Cooper's recommendation that the district invite the band Junkyard Prophet to perform at last week's assembly, and said the plan had been "in the works" for nearly a month.
"He simply wants to be a superintendent," Stanton said, acknowledging that the timing of the announcement suggested there might be more to it.
Several students and parents said they were puzzled at why the band was invited to the school in Dunkerton, which is 70 miles northwest of Iowa City. The band is affiliated with a Minnesota group, You Can Run But You Cannot Hide, that describes itself as a Christian ministry and that states its extremely conservative views on social issues on its website. The Southern Poverty Law Center classifies it as a hate group.
Students said the March 8 assembly kicked off with a performance by the band and discussion about how some music can negatively influence young people. They said the group then tried to impress upon students that homosexuality, sex and abortion are wrong, displaying images of aborted fetuses on a screen above the stage.
Jennifer Littlefield told the La Crosse Tribune, of Wisconsin, that her daughter Alivia, who is a junior at the school, called her crying so hard after the assembly that she could barely understand her.
"They told my daughter, the girls, that they were going to have mud on their wedding dresses if they weren't virgins," said Littlefield, who also said she didn't appreciate what she described as gay bashing.
"They told these kids that anyone who was gay was going to die at the age of 42. It just blows me away that no one stopped this," she said.
Stanton apologized to students last week and said he shocked by the group's message, which he says contradicts the message of tolerance and acceptance that the district stresses.
At a special board meeting Tuesday night, Stanton outlined a plan for the district to deal with the fallout from the assembly and prevent similar problems in the future, including providing counseling for students and faculty members who request it, bolstering the district's diversity curriculum, notifying parents before future assemblies and vetting future performers more thoroughly.
Some parents said the changes weren't enough and they called on Stanton to resign as well.
"The kids are suffering over this deal and, Mr. Stanton, you signed the checks," Tim Westergreen said. "I respectfully ask for your resignation."
Stanton said he does not plan to quit, and several school board members, including its president, Alen Nagel, said they had no interest in seeing Stanton resign.