Parent Fumes After School Board Nixes Gay Actor’s Talk Due to His ‘Lifestyle’

Mike Pont/WireImage via Getty Images
Mike Pont/WireImage via Getty Images

The former parent of two middle school students whose board uninvited 30 Rock actor Maulik Pancholy from speaking at an assembly on anti-bullying is fighting back, starting a petition demanding the openly gay actor be reinstated.

Trisha Comstock said she was “deeply saddened” and “concerned” by the decision of the Cumberland Valley School Board to cancel the assembly scheduled at Mountain View Middle School in Pennsylvania on May 22.

In her petition, Comstock wrote that Pancholy was expected to talk about empathy, anti-bullying, and the books he authored, but when two board members raised concern over his “lifestyle” during an April 15 public meeting, the board unanimously overturned the appearance.

In a statement to The Daily Beast, she said that since her petition, “I’ve never seen the community united the way it is now. We are sending a clear message that bigotry doesn’t belong in education.”

She added: “The decision needs to be reversed.”

In video posted by Comstock and reported by Today, board member Bud Shaffner said: “If you research this individual, he labels himself as an activist, he is proud of his lifestyle and I don’t think that should be imposed upon our students at any age.”

Comstock told Today: “What happened is homophobic. Anyone can go and watch the meeting. This board is close to causing some real harm.”

The Daily Beast has contacted the Cumberland Valley School District Board and Pancholy for comment.

In the board meeting, a member is seen discussing the prospect of Pancholy discussing his children’s book, The Best at It, during the assembly. The book, according to its publisher, is about “a gay Indian American boy coming into his own.”

“It’s not discriminating against his lifestyle — that’s his choice,” a member said in the meeting. “But it’s him speaking about it.”

Meanwhile, Shaffner added to Today: “Politically motivated discussions belong at home and not in the classroom. A number of board members went to his website and what stuck out to all of us is that he’s a political activist.”

According to his website, the actor “regularly delivers keynotes on the topic of diversity and inclusion in corporate settings and at universities across the country.” His activism includes an appointment in 2014 by then-President Barack Obama to serve on the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Pancholy, who played Alex Baldwin’s faithful assistant Jonathan in 30 Rock, had his appearance voted down by an 8-0 vote.

“Being LGBTQ+ isn’t a dirty little secret to protect our students from,” Comstock said in her petition. “To have someone with Maulik’s life experiences would have been inspirational for our students. It is important that we teach our children about diversity and acceptance from an early age.”

Comstock is pleading with the board to reverse its decision and reinstate the assembly with Pancholy. “By doing so, we can show our students that everyone deserves respect regardless of their sexual orientation or identity,” she said.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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