Arizona Superintendent Apologizes to LGBT Community

Recently we wrote about the offensive comments made by Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal about gay and lesbian people.  Along with Equality Arizona, GLAAD called on Mr. Huppenthal to apologize.

Today, his office shared with us a letter offering that apology, which was addressed to the LGBT community.

Mr. Huppenthal’s original statement was highly offensive, but GLAAD appreciates his apology and recognition that words and images matter.  We applaud him for his stated support of anti-bullying initiatives.  We agree, “Every child deserves to learn in a safe, healthy and positive educational environment, one that celebrates all our differences rather than one that alienates others for being different.”

The Superintendent’s letter reads:

October 31, 2011

Dear Members of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Community:

It has come to my attention that individuals have taken comments I made at a meeting in Tucson on October 20 as offensive. First and foremost, I want to offer my sincere apology for my comments. I meant no disrespect.

I used an unfortunate choice of words in making the following point regarding accusations made against an elected official being affiliated with a hate group simply based on a photograph:

As an elected official, you have your picture taken with people from unknown and myriad backgrounds all the time. However, just because you have your picture taken with someone affiliated with a certain group does not mean you identify with or are a member of that group.

This same elected official is famous for saying, “I’ve had my picture taken with Democrats and lesbians and yet no one’s accused me of being a Democrat or a lesbian.” In my attempt to paraphrase this elected official, I unfortunately used the term “known homosexual” instead of “lesbian.” I apologize for that unfortunate poor choice of words.

My reference to certain groups’ prior “…inappropriate behavior” was aimed solely at the individual with whom this elected official was photographed, and in no way was meant to suggest that lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) individuals have, merely by virtue of being members of the community, engaged in such behavior. I am glad for the opportunity to clarify this portion of my remarks.

As an education leader, I have always been a strong supporter of anti-bullying initiatives. I have worked hard to eradicate bullying at our schools, including the unfortunate and too often devastating consequences resulting from the disproportionate amount of bullying targeted at LGBT students.

Since being elected Superintendent of Public Instruction, I have directed the Arizona Department of Education to conduct statewide conferences on bullying and proudly participated in the Stand Against Bullying National Town Hall. In addition, I have travelled across the state to talk about the rampant problem of bullying and how to stop it.

The message I will continue to spread is the following: Every child deserves to learn in a safe, healthy and positive educational environment, one that celebrates all our differences rather than one that alienates others for being different.

While I cannot undo what I have said in the past, I understand my obligation to represent our vibrant education community in all its diversity in a positive light going forward.

Once again, please accept my sincerest apology for my poor choice of words and my absolute assurance that there was no attempt to disparage any member of the gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender community.



John Huppenthal

Superintendent of Public Instruction