Fullerton Union High School teen was disqualified from Mr. Fullerton pageant after saying he hopes gay marriage will be legal. Fullerton isn’t particularly an open minded city even though it is part of Southern California. It’s part of the O.C. which is divided on the issue.
By EUGENE W. FIELDS / THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
FULLERTON – The student disqualified for his remarks about gay marriage during a campus competition wants the Fullerton Joint Union High School District to support the rights of gay students.
Kearian Giertz, 17, said he was not upset with Vice Principal Joe Abell, who eliminated him from the Mr. Fullerton pageant when the senior said he hoped to marry a man and that gay marriage would be legal.
“If Mr. Abell had to react that way to do his job that means there’s something wrong with the district and something wrong with the message that they’re putting out for gay teens,” Giertz said. “They simply don’t want to hear about it.”
The Mr. Fullerton pageant is a mock beauty pageant held annually for male seniors at the school’s Plummer Auditorium. The contestants are entered by peer vote, with the pageant consisting of skits, dances and an interview.
During the interview, held April 3, Giertz was asked where he saw himself in 10 years. His answer was that he hoped to have won multiple awards for theater and dance, and be married, with the hope of gay marriage being legal.
Giertz, who said he is openly gay, said he was not seeking attention.
“What other people think of me is none of my business,” he said. “It’s sad because some of those people were my family or people who I thought cared about me. I have to live my life for me.”
Sherry Little, Giertz’s grandmother, said there were no detractors in the audience: “The people in the audience stood up and cheered him.”
While the audience cheered, Giertz said, the administrator motioned to have the microphone cut off. Backstage, Giertz said he was disqualified because his answer was not preapproved, but he still participated in the rest of the show.
“I can guarantee you that more than Kearian spoke off script,” Little said. “He humiliated my grandson.”
In a statement, Fullerton Joint Union High School District Superintendent George Giokaris said the student’s answer did not violate school rules.
“The district has concluded that the matter was not handled appropriately by the assistant principal,” Giokaris said. “The district believes that the matter should have been handled privately with the student by the assistant principal.”
Giertz said Abell apologized privately the next morning, and he publicly apologized over the school’s public address system, but Giertz said the apologies were different.
“He did apologize and it was very sincere,” Giertz said. “When he apologized on the PA system, he apologized for the circumstances and the time. I was taken aback because the public apology was different from what he said in private.”
The story has drawn national attention. Giertz said most of the reaction he received has been positive.
“It makes me happy – all the support that I’ve been receiving from everyone – because it makes me realize that it’s not really my community or society in general,” he said.
“It’s just the office of administration and the district that has a problem with speaking out about homosexuality and gay marriage.”
Seniors Blake Danford and Katy Hall – Giertz’s friends – organized a protest by passing out nearly 200 letters addressed to the assistant principal asking, “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?”
The students will deliver the letters to Abell next week when school is back in session from spring break.
“We just hope that tolerance is bred, starting from the administration down to the students,” Hall said.
Danford hopes the situation will force the district to write language in its policies to protect gay rights and pro-gay speech.
“I feel like even the action taken onstage that night was bullying,” Danford said. “What kind of message does that send when they disqualify him for what he said?”
Abell did not return calls asking for comment.
Of course he didn’t.