Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Education

Center Academy principal resigns amid backlash for antigay Facebook comments

PINELLAS PARK — The Center Academy principal who faced heat for a series of antigay Facebook comments in June resigned this week, the school said in a letter sent to parents Friday.

"Although we do not condone nor agree with the views or values reflected in his recent personal Facebook statements, we do wish to recognize his good works prior to the posting," the letter said, referring to principal Stephen Kenney. "Again, we sincerely apologize to anyone hurt or offended by the statements."

Kenney's comments landed beneath a post made by Cyd Zeigler, a sports website editor living in California, just hours after the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando. It was a photo of Zeigler with his husband and partner of 13 years, Dan Pinar, kissing in front of the John Lennon Peace Wall during a trip to Prague, Czech Republic, just days before the massacre on June 12.

Kenney called the photo "sick" in his first comment, then posted a string of Bible verses, including one that said a man who "practices homosexuality" must "be put to death." He went on to say Zeigler's relationship is a "detestable sin" and a "capital offense."

"What he did was so heinous," Zeigler told the Tampa Bay Times soon after writing a story about the ordeal on his website. "And to do it 36 hours after 49 people were killed in a gay bar on a stranger's page was beyond explanation."

But Zeigler says the resignation is the opposite of what he had hoped would happen. He wanted to see Kenney stay at the school and make good out of a sour situation.

"I want people who are a part of the problem to be a part of the solution — and from what I heard from a lot of parents and students, it certainly seemed like there was an opportunity for him to be a part of the solution there," he said. "I hope he and the school aren't running away from that."

Zeigler said he tried to contact Kenney several times, but never got a response. He wanted to give him tips on how to engage the entire school in LGBT sensitivity training.

A spokesperson for the school said all Center Academy employees will undergo diversity training. The school declined to say what prompted Kenney's resignation other than that it was "of his own accord."

Contact Megan Reeves at [email protected] or (727) 445-4153. Follow @mreeves_tbt.

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