Dozens of students walked out of classes at Valor Christian High School Tuesday in protest of school policies and to support LGBTQ+ students as a second coach came forward to say she was also forced out of her job because she is gay.
Lauren Benner, the school's former girls lacrosse coach, told Denver ABC affiliate KMGH that she was forced to leave her position last year because she is a lesbian.
"It's not, 'You're fired,'" Benner told KMGH. "It's, 'You're no longer in alignment.'"
Only days earlier, former girls volleyball coach Inoke Tonga said he was forced out of his job when he refused to denounce his sexuality.
Tonga posted to Instagram he was told to "cut off that part of you who you think you are" by deleting all social media posts "that speak about being gay" and that he must "become a child of God" if he wanted to keep his job.
Valor Christian High School, a private Christian academy, confirmed that school officials confronted Inoke with their concerns he might be gay, something they said would conflict with the school's beliefs. They claimed, "Inoke provided a statement to Valor in which he concluded that he does not support Valor's beliefs and he requested a separation from Valor."
Their statement also alleged Inoke "misrepresented many aspects of this matter" which they did not specify while thanking him for his time at the academy.
When Brenner learned of Tonga's experiences, she praised the former coach and then decided it was time to reveal the details of her own departure from Valor Christian.
Brenner was confronted early in 2020 with an accusation she might be involved in a sexual relationship with another woman.
"They explained to me that their stance on homosexuality would be that they would ask that person to disassociate -- to no longer be able to partake in same-sex relationships," she told KMGH, adding she was told she needed to live "a life that would be in alignment with their beliefs that homosexuality is wrong."
Brenner said she initially denied the accusation, saying it was a "confusing time" for her. But after the end of the semester, she went back to school officials and told them the truth. They gave her an ultimatum.
"Essentially, if I decided that I wanted to pursue a relationship with another female, I would no longer be in alignment with Valor's culture statement, and I would be asked to leave," she recalled. "The responses that I received ultimately led to me, without a doubt, 100 percent certainty and conviction, that there was absolutely no way I could continue on in my roles as an administrator."
The students organized a protest to show their displeasure with school administrators and the school's policies regarding LGBTQ+ teachers and coaches. KMGHreported an online post announcing the walkout described the school's policies as "discrimination and bigotry" and promised such anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments "will not be tolerated."
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