A Des Moines Catholic high school is being taken to task for redacting its official policies so that Liam Jameson, a gay honors student, will not be honored for his scholastic achievement, which has earned him the Eyechaner Foundation’s Matthew Shepard Scholarship, along with his peers.
Liam Jameson has been seminal as a student leader at Dowling Catholic School, founding the school’s first gay-straight alliance and rallying over 250 students together after an openly-gay teacher, Tyler McCubbin, was denied full-time employment and dismissed as Dowling’s track coach on the basis of his orientation.
Last week, Dowling Catholic told Jameson that he would not be permitted to receive his scholarship at the school’s senior ceremony on Thursday. In an open letter, Jameson implored his fellow students and administrators to speak out.
“Please add your name to my Change.org petition and respectfully ask Dowling Catholic High School, Bishop Richard Pates, President Jerry Deegan and Principal Matt Meendering to let my scholarship be presented. Every life is precious, and this act alone may keep a wavering student alive. Bishop Pates, President Deegan, Principal Meendering, please choose life and demonstrate that all lives are worthy of “wholeness and dignity”. Doing so shows the entire Dowling Catholic student body that they are truly valued and loved regardless of who they are.”
In a statement from the Eyechaner Foundation, Dowling Catholic has gone so far as to explicitly dishonor the Matthew Shepard Scholarship in years past, allowing the award to be presented in 2o14, only to “tighten their policy to specifically target the Matthew Shepard Scholarship by writing in ‘rules’ that the school could deny the student’s choice of scholarships that were publicly read under criteria that targeted our scholarship.”
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The Matthew Shepard Scholarship, inspired by the awful 1998 tragedy that, in part, spurred the Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2009, is sponsored by Dowling Alumni, still meeting the school’s self-imposed criteria.
Jameson, in coalition with the Eyechaner Foundation, has posted a petition, which is being met with an outpouring of support. At time of press, there are 3863 signees. Just like any other senior, Jameson wants to accept the scholarship he’s earned this year in front of the student body. This fall, Jameson will go on to the Iowa State University Honors Program, pursuing a degree in Engineering.
“I have been touched by all the kind words of encouragement,” Jameson tells Passport. “If I ever doubted the value of my work, reading these postings shows me how much Dowling High School has harmed some students, many of whom hold that bitterness for years after they leave DHS. All of this support helps make Dowling a better, safer place for all students.”
Sign the petition, and share!