UPDATE: The Eychaner Foundation claims the school has changed its policy in recent months specifically to "target" LGBT-associated scholarships.
UPDATE: The school sent this message to its faculty and media earlier today: At Dowling Catholic High School we are proud of all of our senior students who have received awards and scholarships to further their education. All scholarship recipients are honored during the Scholastic Award Assembly. Each senior selects up to two scholarships to be read out loud when a slide that includes their name and picture comes up on the screen. We do not allow organizations who are awarding the scholarship to attend and individually present the scholarship to the student. This policy was shared in writing with the Eychaner Foundation regarding the Matthew Shepard Award. We are pleased one of our students received the Matthew Shepard Award and he will be honored in the same manner as his classmates.
When Liam Jameson was awarded a scholarship from the Eychaner Foundation in Iowa, he was overjoyed. The Eychaner Foundation has for years been awarding scholarships to LGBT youth who have demonstrated a willingness and ability to lead in their communities. Jameson has been a leader at his Catholic high school, even starting a gay-straight alliance there.
His joy has turned in part to sadness. School administrators at Dowling Catholic High School in West Des Moines have told Jameson he cannot receive the scholarship at the schools' annual senior awards ceremony, to be held this Thursday, May 5. Other scholarships will be presented to other students at the ceremony, just not this one.
The Eychaner Foundation did present a scholarship to a student two years ago under another principal, who has since left the school.
In his letter asking the school to change its mind, Jameson paints a sad picture we hear about far too often from LGBT youth:
I tried killing myself, more than once, stopping each time before I could get any further. I dreaded having to go to school the next day. I felt alone and afraid, just hoping for someone to notice me. I wondered what my life would be like. Would this equate to what the rest of my life would be like? Would I be alone? Do I even matter? I asked myself these questions every day, longing to know what the universe had in store for me.
I vowed that no one should have to go through the experiences that I have, whether they are LGBT or not. So I decided that I would make an example of myself. I would be the person that I wished was there when I needed them the most . . . having a safe environment for LGBT students where they don't feel the need to self-harm or commit suicide. When talking to other students, many of them don't feel safe in their school environment, and that is unacceptable. On average, almost 40% of LGBT youth try to commit suicide, and it is the third leading cause of death in people age 15 to 25.
The fact the school banning this kid, who has already suffered so much from religion and pressures from society, from receiving this leadership honor is a disgusting display of the worst of Christianity. In all my years at Sunday school and reading the Bible, I never read about Jesus shaming gay people or those who are particularly susceptible to suicidal thoughts. In fact, I seem to remember the complete opposite.
I had the incredible fortune of speaking at the statewide award dinner for the Eychaner Foundation last year, meeting these incredible LGBT youth and past award winners. These are amazing kids who do not deserve to be shamed.
Jesus Christ himself is ashamed of every single person at this school who led to this decision.
Jameson and the Eychaner Foundation have posted a Change.org petition asking the school to allow Jameson to accept the scholarship at the awards ceremony, just like every other senior.