Now Reading
Parents and Students Condemn Pennsylvania School Board’s ‘Homophobic’ Decision to Cancel Indian American Actor’s Talk

Parents and Students Condemn Pennsylvania School Board’s ‘Homophobic’ Decision to Cancel Indian American Actor’s Talk

  • Maulik Pancholy, who’s openly gay, was scheduled to speak against bullying at a May 22 assembly at Mountain View Middle School in Mechanicsburg.

A Pennsylvania school board has cancelled Indian American actor and author Maulik Pancholy’s upcoming anti-bullying talk, citing his lifestyle and activism. The “30 Rock” actor, who’s openly gay, was scheduled to speak against bullying at  a May 22assembly at Mountain View Middle School in Mechanicsburg. However, Cumberland Valley school board members canceled his appearance at a meeting earlier this week, citing concerns about the openly gay actor’s activism, lifestyle and LGBTQ+ characters in his books.

Pancholy who was seen as the assistant to Alec Baldwin’s character on the TV show “30 Rock,” voiced Baljeet in the cartoon “Phineas and Ferb.” He has also written two books — “The Best at It” and Nikhil Out Loud,” about gay Indian American boys grappling with bullying and self-discovery while growing up in small Midwest towns. He has spoken at schools about bullying and diversity, according to his website.

In 2014, he was appointed by then-President Barack Obama to serve on the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, where he co-founded a campaign to combat AAPI bullying.

Parents, students, and community members blasted the cancellation, calling the

decision “homophobic.” Brooke Ryerson, an LGBTQ+ high school sophomore who attended Mountain View Middle School, told that she viewed it as “an attempt to silence queer students and the LGBTQ+ community.”

U.S. Senator John Fetterman (D-Pa.) also criticized the decision, calling it “deeply wrong,” and adding that  it “affirms exactly why it’s so important to have a conversation about bullying.”

Acts of Change, an organization committed to combating AAPI bullying, has also condemned the Cumberland Valley School District school board’s decision to silence their chair on anti-bullying efforts. 

Another Pennsylvania school — Tohickon Middle School in Doylestown — praised his speaking engagement. Your message of accepting and celebrating our differences is one that is sorely needed,” a testimonial from the school on his website said. “The assembly and Writers Workshop were both beautifully done. For the rest of the day teachers stopped me in the hallway to thank me for arranging your visit.”

Amid the board’s decision and the backlash, Pancholy shared a statement on Instagram this Thursday (April 18).  He expressed his appreciation for the public’s “outpouring of solidarity, love, and support from the community at Mountain View Middle School.” Addressing the board’s decision, his “heart goes out to the entire Mountain View Middle School community, and particularly to the students.” He said Both of my books “are stories that reflect the full, complicated, and wonderful lives of middle school students.” 

See Also

He wrote the books because as a middle schooler, he never saw himself “represented in the stories around me.”  He “couldn’t find books that featured South Asian-American or LGBTQ+ characters. They didn’t exist.” So when he “visits schools,” his “activism is to let all young people know that they’re seen. To let them know that they matter.” When he talks about the characters in his books feeling ‘different,” he’s “always surprised by how many young people raise their hands – regardless of their identities and backgrounds – wanting to share about the ways in which they, too, feel different.” Directly addressing the students he wrote: “To each of you: I see you. I appreciate you. You matter. No one can take that away from you.”

Several board members spoke at the May 15 school board meeting and made a case to disinvite Pancholy. Longtimeboard member Bud Shaffner said that while Pancholy “ labels himself as an activist,” and is “proud of his lifestyle,” he shouldn’t be “imposed upon our students, at any age.” While he admitted that he didn’t know what the talk would be about, he “didn’t “want to run the risk.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer quoted several more school board members  like Shaffner who were concerned about Pancholy’s views. Most weren’t aware of the contents of the speech as well, the report added. 

The report cited school board member Brian Drapp who “worried that Pancholy’s assembly could break the district’s policy about not hosting overtly political events.” That rule was adopted following backlash the district faced when a high school within its district hosted Donald Trump for a 2016 rally, according to PennLive.

Moms for Liberty member Kelly Potteiger also addressed the meeting, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.  She said she was “concerned Pancholy would discuss his children’s books, which center LGBTQ+ characters, or his own experiences with anti-bullying and empathy and inclusion.” She insisted that the decision to ban him was “not  discriminating against his lifestyle.”

Meanwhile, Cumberland Valley School District spokesperson Tracy Panzer told that Pancholy’s visit was not on the meeting’s original agenda. “One board member motioned to rescind the invite, and the board unanimously voted to cancel his speaking engagement,” she said. 

What's Your Reaction?
In Love
Not Sure
View Comments (0)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

© 2020 American Kahani LLC. All rights reserved.

The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and editorial policies of American Kahani.
Scroll To Top