High School Pulls Plug on Veterans Event Speaker Because of Conservative Views

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2018/04/26/high-school-pulls-plug-on-veterans-event-speaker-because-of-conservative-views/

A nationally prominent spokesman on veterans matters has been uninvited as a speaker at his alma mater because of his conservative social commentary.

Kyle Reyes, who frequently appears on television, radio, and in his own web videos, was invited earlier this year by a local veterans group to serve as keynote speaker and master of ceremonies at an event honoring veterans at a public high school in Southwick, Massachusetts.

But the superintendent barred Reyes from speaking at the event, citing his commentary on homosexuality, the chairman of the local veterans group said.

Troy Henke, chairman of Ransford W. Kellogg V.F.W. Post 872 in Southwick, said he met with the superintendent and principalWednesday for about a half-hour to plan the event. That’s when the superintendent, Jennifer Willard, told him Reyes would not be allowed to speak.

“Her reasoning was that some of Kyle’s positions could make some of the students feel unsafe and unincluded,” Henke said in an interview with New Boston Post. “… I expressed my disappointment and said we’re missing a civic opportunity. Which they acknowledged was a valid point, but they kept going back to the fact that they didn’t want anyone to feel unincluded, unsafe.”

Henke said the principal, Joseph Turmel, said that some of the teachers at the school are active in pro-homosexuality advocacy outside the school and might be uncomfortable attending an event with Reyes as speaker.

Neither school official mentioned a particular writing or video by Reyes, Henke said.

Reyes said he is puzzled by the reason given, because he has not commented much about homosexuality. But he has written and spoken about transgender bathrooms and he has poked fun at gender studies.

Yet he wasn’t planning to speak about anything controversial, he said. He was a senior at the school when terrorists attacked New York City on September 11, 2001.

“I was going to give a three-minute speech about sitting in history class and seeing the Twin Towers fall, and how so many of my friends went on to serve our country because of that moment that I experienced while sitting in Southwick High School,” Reyes said in an interview with New Boston Post.

Reyes is not a military veteran, but he frequently raises money for veterans causes and features veterans in his online shows and commentary.

He has been a frequent contributor to New Boston Post and has also worked as a consultant for New Boston Post through his company, The Silent Partner Marketing, of Manchester, Connecticut, which he founded and runs.

He said he recently spoke in front of about 2,000 high school students in Utah about hope and suicide prevention. He has also begun a national task force to try to come up with ways to keep schools safe from murderous attacks.

“The sad irony of this entire situation is that an event that was never going to be political has been turned into an unfortunate controversy by the very school that was going to be befitting from this engagement,” Reyes said.

Neither school administrator could immediately be reached for comment Thursday.

The school event, which is not open to the public, is a dedication of the foyer of a new addition to Southwick Regional School, a grades-7-through-12 public school that serves the southwestern Massachusetts towns of Southwick, Tolland, and Granville, all of which border Connecticut. The foyer will honor three graduates of the school killed while serving in the military:  William Allard, Class of 1966, killed in Vietnam in 1970; Steven Wentworth, Class of 1981, killed in Beirut in 1983; and Travis J. Fuller, Class of 1997, killed in Iraq in 2005.

Henke said he has had a good working relationship with school officials, but that he’s disappointed with the decision to exclude Reyes.

Reyes’s appearance would have boosted interest in the foyer and in the town’s veterans who died serving the country, he said.

He also noted Reyes’s local connection. Reyes moved to Southwick when he was in grade school during the 1990s, and he graduated from what was then called Southwick-Tolland Regional High School in 2002.

“This is where he’s from. … You have an alumnus being told he can’t come home. And that to me is extraordinarily troublesome,” Henke said.

Henke said the superintendent and principal offered to open the building to an after-school event hours after the morning dedication Monday, May 21, saying that Reyes could speak then and that they would attend.

Instead, though, the local V.F.W. post is hosting a pre-dedication event at 6 p.m. Saturday, May 12 where Reyes is the featured speaker.

“We don’t want this to distract from the original purpose of the ceremony. This is unfortunate what happened. We don’t like it. We don’t think it’s right. But at the end of the day we want to keep this ceremony about the veterans and the Gold Star families,” Henke said.