Dozens of students at Valor Christian High School, one of Colorado’s largest religious high schools, walked out of class Tuesday, protesting that administrators allegedly forced out two coaches for being gay.
Last weekend, volleyball coach Inoke Tonga took to social media to describe how he resigned after officials at Valor Christian High School in Highlands Ranch confronted him about his sexual orientation. After Tonga went public, a former Valor lacrosse coach revealed that a similar thing happened to her three years ago.
Now some of the school’s 1,200 students, along with other members of the school community, are speaking out against what they call discrimination. Meanwhile, Valor defends its “beliefs pertaining to sexuality and marriage” and says Tonga “has misrepresented many aspects of this matter.”
Former Valley Christian High School Coaches Speak Out
Tonga, who was set to begin his second year on Valor Christian High School’s coaching staff, says the campus pastor and athletic director confronted him about a Facebook post he’d made regarding his sexual orientation. “They said I had two options: The first option was to denounce that I was gay,” he says, and the second was to resign. “They told me, ‘We’ll give you…however long it takes for you to accept our help to be healed and…become a child of God.”
Tonga says Valor officials offered to help him with his “spiritual battle” and said “it was a danger” for him to work with young people. They also said, according to the coach, that “parents pay too much money to have their kids be coached and taught by someone like you who identifies as a gay man.” Yearly tuition at Valor is more than $21,000.
After deciding to resign, Tonga says he’s receiving support from students that is “very humbling.” The coach adds, “I know I can be a gay man and a child of God.” On Facebook he writes, “My identity will not be defined by a few men in a room full of self-righteous egos, who will never be worthy enough to tell me my worth. The lack of love these men and others have for me is fulfilled by the eternal love that my God has for me.”
After Tonga’s story made the news, former Valor Christian High School lacrosse coach Lauren Benner posted about her experience of being forced out because of her sexual orientation. School officials had said they received an anonymous tip about her same-sex relationship, leaving Benner shocked that “I was being questioned about something that was so incredibly personal.” Benner says she felt cornered and resigned, and in her goodbye email from her school account, she wasn’t allowed to reveal her reason for leaving.