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After a Pennsylvania school board canceled a gay actor's talk, the community fought back

Pennsylvania Cumberland Valley School District MOUNTAIN VIEW MIDDLE SCHOOL cancels lgbtq guest speaker gay man Maulik Pancholy
via Cumberland Valley School District; Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

Maulik Pancholy was scheduled to speak at a middle school about his experiences with bullying, until the school board suddenly canceled the event.

A gay author has been re-invited to speak at a Pennsylvania middle school less than two weeks after he was banned over parts of his "lifestyle."

Maulik Pancholy, known for his roles in 30 Rock and as a voice actor in Phineas and Ferb, was scheduled to speak at Mountain View Middle School in Mechanicsburg about his experiences with bullying, until the Cumberland Valley School District suddenly canceled the event, citing concerns that the actor’s LGBTQ+ advocacy would be too political for students. Board member Bud Shaffner, who introduced the resolution to cancel the event, justified the decision at the time by citing Pancholy's "lifestyle."

The board has since reversed their decision after an uproar from the local community at their Wednesday night meeting, according to the New York Times. Parents and students filled a high school auditorium late yesterday to berate the board members for several hours, slamming what many said were homophobic remarks.

The board eventually voted 5-4 to re-allow Pancholy to speak, and Shaffner apologized for his "lifestyle" comment, claiming that he simply intended to reference the author's political activism and not his sexuality.

“I will accept the blame because of the insensitive word I spoke on April 15,” he said at the start of the meeting. “I fully understand the interpretation of my poor word choice.”

Pancholy has not yet said if he would re-agree to speak at the school. He addressed the school board's initial decision in a video to his Instagram at the time, in which he said that "my heart goes out to the entire Mountain View Middle School community, and particularly to the students."

"When I visit schools, my 'activism' is to let all young people know that they’re seen. To let them know that they matter," he said. "When I talk about the characters in my books feeling 'different,' I’m 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. That’s the power of books. They build empathy."

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Ryan Adamczeski

Ryan is a staff writer at The Advocate, and a graduate of New York University Tisch's Department of Dramatic Writing, with a focus in television writing and comedy. She first became a published author at the age of 15 with her YA novel "Someone Else's Stars," and is now a member of GALECA, the LGBTQ+ society of entertainment critics. In her free time, Ryan likes watching New York Rangers hockey, listening to the Beach Boys, and practicing witchcraft.
Ryan is a staff writer at The Advocate, and a graduate of New York University Tisch's Department of Dramatic Writing, with a focus in television writing and comedy. She first became a published author at the age of 15 with her YA novel "Someone Else's Stars," and is now a member of GALECA, the LGBTQ+ society of entertainment critics. In her free time, Ryan likes watching New York Rangers hockey, listening to the Beach Boys, and practicing witchcraft.