School board member's husband gave money to bring controversial speaker
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- At a crowded, often testy Kanawha County school board meeting Thursday, board member Becky Jordon announced that her husband donated money to a religious group to bring a controversial abstinence-only speaker to two public schools and a church last week.
That admission was part of a heated defense of the speaker's presence in the schools, and George Washington High School Principal George Aulenbacher's role in bringing her there.
"Everybody needs to hear it," she said. "My voice is loud, and that's how Ms. Stenzel's was, because sometimes you need to get everyone's attention."
The GW community has been in an uproar since last week, when the school allowed Pam Stenzel to speak at an assembly.
The assembly was sponsored by Believe in West Virginia, a local religious group -- that's the group Jordon's husband, Andrew, donated to.
When she made the announcement, murmurs could be heard in the crowd that she should resign, or "remember separation of church and state."
Jordon would not say how much money her husband donated, but said he was not the only person who gave money.
Some students took issue with the assembly. GW senior Katelyn Campbell called it an exercise in "slut-shaming" and decried Stenzel's approach and remarks that "if you are on birth control your mother probably hates you," among a slew of other things.
Campbell went to the media with her concerns last week. She later filed for an injunction, saying that Aulenbacher had threatened to call her future college to tell them what a "backstabber" she is. She also called for Aulenbacher's resignation.
In a statement emailed just before the meeting, Campbell said she was advised by her lawyer not to speak at the meeting, though she had some supporters in the crowd.
Thursday's board meeting was filled to capacity. More than 40 people signed up to address the board, mainly Aulenbacher supporters -- primarily students and community members vouching for his character and the positive impact he has had at GW.
Debra Bradford, a GW parent, said she has "never seen any child operate with a degree of fear around him."
"He is a caring man who loves the students of George Washington High School," she said. "If he's at fault for anything it's because he cares so much about the kids."
Joey Holland, board member of Believe in West Virginia, said young people benefit from hearing Stenzel's message.
"In my opinion, she is an authority and a credible source on these issues," Holland said. "Our intentions were pure to try to bring somebody into this community who could do an educational job of trying to inform children, inform young people. And I believe she did that."
Trish Sheraton, a nurse practitioner and GW parent, and Dr. Annette Zavareei, a school psychiatrist, both said Stenzel's remarks were off base.
"I felt it didn't' have anything to do with education," Zavareei said. "If it had anything to do with education, all of the aspects of sex ed would have been presented. They were not. I felt instead that it was verbal bullying."
"Abstinence is best. I'm the last person to promote any kind of sexual activity. As a teen it's a very bad idea," Sheraton said. "But if you're going to give a forum to someone like Mrs. Stenzel, who has an agenda, then you need to have a forum for unbiased, unfrightening sexual education for our children."
Boos could be heard as they gave their remarks.
The school board has so far maintained that it will stay out of the matter, deferring to the administration's judgment.
Contact writer Shay Maunz at email@example.com or 304-348-4886.