GW student asks for injunction against principal over speaker
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A student at George Washington High School asked for an injunction in Kanawha Circuit Court against the school's principal Monday, after she alleges he threatened to call the college where she's been accepted and tell them she has "bad character" for speaking up against an abstinence-only assembly held at the school last week.
Katelyn Campbell, the school's student body vice president, refused to attend an assembly where Christian speaker Pam Stenzel told GW students "condoms aren't safe" and warned that any type of sexual contact would lead to sexually transmitted diseases and cause women to be infertile, according to an audio recording of her presentation.
In her YouTube videos, Stenzel shouts and says things such as women who take birth control are "10 times more likely to contract a disease . . . or end up sterile or dead." She allegedly told GW and Riverside students, "If your mom gives you birth control, she probably hates you."
Since the assembly, Campbell and other students and parents have voiced their concern with the school's allowance of Stenzel's presentation, which was sponsored by Believe in West Virginia, a religious organization. Campbell, 17, was featured on CNN Monday morning to talk about the assembly, which she referred to as "slut-shaming."
Campbell wants GW Principal George Aulenbacher to resign and apologize to the GW community, she said Monday morning during a news conference at the office of Charleston attorney Mike Callaghan, who is representing her.
Aulenbacher "knowingly psychologically abused students" by allowing the assembly, where Stenzel used scare tactics that left some students crying and wanting to leave, Campbell said.
"West Virginia has the ninth highest pregnancy rate in the U.S.," Campbell said. "I should be able to be informed in my school what birth control is and how I can get it. With the policy at GW, under George Aulenbacher, information about birth control and sex education has been suppressed. Our nurse wasn't allowed to talk about where you can get birth control for free in the city of Charleston."
Aulenbacher called Campbell to the principal's office after she contacted media outlets about the assembly and said, "I am disappointed in you" and "How could you go to the press without telling me?" according to the complaint.
He then allegedly threatened to call Wellesley College, where Campbell has been accepted, and tell them about her actions. "How would you feel if I called your college and told them what bad character you have and what a backstabber you are?" he said, according to the complaint.
"I said, 'Go ahead,'" Campbell said Monday. "He continued to berate me in his office. I'm not an emotional person, but I cried. He threatened me and my future in order to put forth his own personal agenda and made teachers and students feel they cant speak up because of fear of retaliation."
A public Facebook page titled "Friends of Aulenbacher" was created Monday, asking for people to show support for the principal who "is under attack for hosting a seminar on abstinence at our high school." The page had about 30 likes by late Monday afternoon.
Aulenbacher said last week that he did not think any of what Stenzel said in the assembly was inappropriate and that, "Any time you talk about sex with any teen student, it can be uncomfortable. The only way to guarantee safety is abstinence." He did not return calls Monday.
The injunction is being filed to prohibit Aulenbacher from retaliating against Campbell for exercising her right to free speech.
"We simply want to make sure that my client's and the other students expressing their opinions are protected for exercising their First Amendment rights. No student should be concerned for their future for publicly expressing their opinion," Callaghan said.
Campbell said fliers about the event were passed out to students a day prior and promoted "God's plan for sexual purity." Typically, students are allowed to stay in class with a teacher's supervision if they do not want to attend an assembly, she said, but it was insinuated that students had to attend this assembly.
Aulenbacher and members of the school's staff blocked the gym entrance and told students who tried to leave that they had to stay the entire time, according to the complaint.
Stenzel also visited Riverside High School last week, but Principal Valery Harper said she received no complaints and had researched Steinzel and watched her YouTube videos prior to allowing her to visit the school.
Riverside freshman Lindsey Hawks said Monday that the presentation made her feel "really uncomfortable."
"She was attacking and bashing the girls more. She was saying that it was all our faults. She was just crazy," Hawks said. "She said things like, 'It's your parents fault for putting you on birth control' and that birth control makes you more sexually active and more likely to get STDs."
Cierra Henderson, a Riverside freshman who also attended the event, said Stenzel said, "If you're on birth control, your parents hate you."
"I was like, 'Oh my gosh.' It was like she was preaching," she said. "It was so personal."
Kanawha County Board of Education President Pete Thaw said principals have the power to choose who they bring into their school for assemblies -- especially when it doesn't involve school money.
Believe in West Virginia is a faith-based organization dedicated to "improving the economic attitude and future of West Virginia through biblical guidance and dogged determination," according to the group's website.
The organization's Board of Directors includes President C. Edward Gaunch, Vice President and founder Rev. Jack Henry, Executive Director John deBlecourt and Ed Swartz, Rick Harrah, Joseph Skaff, Greg Thomas, Rev. Ron Thaxton, Rev. Jack Maxwell, Joey Holland and Scott Barnett.
Students plan to take the matter to the county board of education meeting scheduled for Thursday at 6 p.m.
Reach Mackenzie Mays at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4814.