Maulik Pancholy attends "South Asians At The Oscars" Pre-Oscars Party at Paramount Studios on March 04, 2024 in Los Angeles, California Source: Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images for A-Game Public Relations

School Board Axes Anti-Bullying Talk by Out Actor Due to His 'Lifestyle'

Kilian Melloy READ TIME: 2 MIN.

A Pennsylvania school board withdrew an invitation to "30 Rock" actor Maulik Pancholy to address a middle school at an anti-bullying event, calling Pancholy's identity as a gay man a "lifestyle" they didn't want "imposed upon... students," the Daily Beast reported.

But one member of the community stood up to the school board, saying it was imposing its own hateful agenda and calling for Pancholy's invitation to be restored.

The actor is known for having portrayed Jonathan, an assistant to Alec Baldwin's character Jack Donaghy on the popular sitcom, which ran from 2006 - 2013.

"Pancholy's scheduled appearance at Mountain View Middle School in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, was unanimously overturned by the district's school board in a public meeting on April 15," Today detailed.

The writeup went on to quote board member Bud Schaffner as saying, "If you research this individual, he labels himself as an activist, he is proud of his lifestyle and I don't think that should be imposed upon our students at any age."

Another board member, Kelly Potteiger, also referred to Pancholy being gay as a "lifestyle" and said it was his "choice," the article noted. Potteiger claimed that the decision to rescind the invitation to the actor to speak at the event was not the board "discriminating."

"But it's him speaking about it," Potteiger said.

When it came to details about what the board was concerned students might hear, Today relayed that Potteiger "raised concerns that Pancholy, 50, would discuss his children's book 'The Best at It,' which is about a gay Indian American boy."

Trisha Comstock, however, spoke out against the choice the school board made. Comstock started a petition in which she noted, "Being LGBTQ+ isn't a dirty little secret to protect our students from."

"To have someone with Maulik's life experiences would have been inspirational for our students," Comstock added in the petition. "The cancellation of this assembly sends a harmful message to our students – that being different is something to be ashamed of or hidden away."

"What happened is homophobic," Comstock said in remarks to Today, and added that a video of the school board meeting where the decision to rescind the invitation to Pancholy was taken is available for the public to watch.

"This board is close to causing some real harm," Comstock said.

In his own remarks to Today, Shaffner dismissed whatever Pancholy might have had to say. "Politically motivated discussions belong at home and not in the classroom," Shaffner said.

"According to his website, the actor 'regularly delivers keynotes on the topic of diversity and inclusion in corporate settings and at universities across the country,'" the Daily Beast noted.

"His activism includes an appointment in 2014 by then-President Barack Obama to serve on the President's Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders."

Comstock spoke with the Daily Beast, saying that the school board's choice had rallied students, parents, and others in defense of Pancholy.

"I've never seen the community united the way it is now," Comstock said. "We are sending a clear message that bigotry doesn't belong in education."

by Kilian Melloy , EDGE Staff Reporter

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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