PSHS rally organized

PARKERSBURG – A rally is being organized to support for a Parkersburg South High School teacher suspended this week over a Facebook post that appeared to mock the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance club.

Sandra Walker, the mother of a child in one of David Foggin’s classes, said the rally will be held from 7 to 9 a.m. Friday in front of the school.

“Mr. Foggin was released for making a post on Facebook, and they have now made it a homosexual issue,” Walker said. “He wasn’t even gay-bashing.”

Foggin, a science teacher, was suspended Tuesday morning after posting a picture to Facebook over the weekend showing a poster advertising meetings for the Gay-Straight Alliance club. It was accompanied by a comment suggesting other clubs up for consideration, including a “drunks t-totaller (sic) club” and a “drugged/sober club.”

Walker described the post as an “oxymoron issue.”

On Tuesday, Foggin was suspended for the remainder of the week. The incident remains under investigation and the board of education will decide at a later date whether the suspension is paid or unpaid.

Walker said supporters of Foggin are encouraged to bring their own signs to the rally Friday morning. Students who attend will be given an unexcused absence if they remain outside past the time school starts, South Principal Tom Eschbacher said.

“If they want to have a peaceful picket, they can do so on the sidewalk in front of the school,” he said. “It’s a city sidewalk.”

Walker said clubs dealing with sex – homosexual or heterosexual – have no place at the school.

“As a Christian, I want to take a stand for what’s right,” she said.”We’re not allowed to pray in our schools. We’re not allowed to have any Christian clubs. But they have clubs about sex.”

Eschbacher said South does have a Bible study club and an array of other groups.

“We have (had) dart clubs. We have any types of clubs that a student can imagine,” he said.

To establish a club, students must have a faculty member as a sponsor and get approval from Eschbacher.

“That decision rests with me,” he said. “I had students come (to) me and say they wanted to form this alliance.

“I think it’s worthwhile because it brings together students who are looking for a sexuality and it brings together students who are straight as well,” he said.

As for Walker’s contention that clubs dealing with sexuality are not appropriate for the school, Eschbacher responded, “That’s her opinion.”

Wood County Schools’ employee code of conduct does not specifically address the use of social media. However, it does include provisions that employees “maintain a safe and healthy environment, free from harassment, intimidation, bullying, substance abuse and/or violence and free from bias and discrimination” and “demonstrate responsible citizenship by maintaining a high standard of conduct, self-control and moral/ethic behavior.”

In 2011, Superintendent Pat Law sent a newsletter to employees asking them to follow certain online guidelines, including not associating with students through social networks.

Assistant Superintendent Mike Fling said district officials are researching state and local policy to make sure the situation is being properly handled.

Staff writer Michael Erb contributed.