Christian school that allegedly forced gay coach to resign hit by more disturbing allegations

·4-min read

A second coach at Valor Christian High School has said she was pushed out of a job at the school after she came out as gay.

The private school, based in Denver, Colorado, made headlines this week when former volleyball coach Inoke Tonga said he was “pushed out” when senior staff found out he was gay.

Now, a former lacrosse coach at the school has alleged that she had a similar experience.

Writing on Instagram, Lauren Benner praised Tonga for sharing his story, saying her heart “broke into a million pieces” when she heard his story.

“I feel it is important for me to no longer stay silent and to share my similar experience of being mistreated by Valor,” she said.

“As I write this I am anxious and am in tears, but it is clear that so many other LGBTQ+ Valor staff and students need to know they are not alone.”

Coach Lauren Benner was ‘blindsided’ when Valor received a tip off about her sexuality

In her Instagram post, Benner said she started working at Valor Christian High School in September 2017 as an athletic administrator and a head coach for the girls’ lacrosse team.

In the years she worked at the school, Benner “formed incredible relationships with the girls, parents and fellow staff”, while the team she was coaching rapidly improved its performance.

While her first couple of years working at Valor were good, things took a nosedive in December 2019. That month, Benner wrote, she was summoned to a meeting with the school’s athletic director and a representative from HR.

Benner was “blindsided” when she was told the school had received an anonymous tip-off that she was dating another woman.

“I was asked to confirm or deny. My stomach dropped. I was still on a journey to self-discovery and so for someone, an employer nonetheless, to spontaneously ask me about my sexuality and dating life felt beyond violating,” Benner wrote.

Benner was “caught off guard” in the meeting and ultimately denied that she was seeing another woman.

“I was met with smiles, laughter and the response of: ‘We knew that couldn’t be true! How could your CO State Coach of the Year be gay?!'”

Benner said she asked in that meeting what would have happened if she said she was gay. She was told that the school believes people can be gay, but that queer people must not act on their desires and should remain celibate.

She said staff told her an employee would be asked to “leave Valor if they chose to continue leading that life”.

Benner said she returned to her job for the benefit of the girls she was coaching, but the school soon became “a place of fear and distrust” for her.

‘Shocking’ meeting with Valor was marred by ‘ignorant’ statements

When the 2020 season drew to a close early due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Benner retreated to work from home. At the end of that school year, she said, she arranged a meeting with the athletic director and the campus pastor to discuss Valor’s approach to LGBT+ issues.

“Once again, this meeting was nothing short of shocking,” Benner wrote. “I was overwhelmed with the lack of sensitivity to the topic and alarming dialogue that they disguised as a Biblical approach to same-sex attraction.

“I was bombarded with ignorant and irrelevant statements, like ‘gay marriages don’t last’ and ‘God made man and woman for the sole purpose of procreation’.

“One of them even compared his belief that acting on same-sex desires is a perversion and the ultimate lack of self-control of gay people, to him consciously having to shield his eyes from young female students who may be dressed ‘inappropriately’ or counter to Valor’s dress code.”

Benner said her “jaw was on the floor in disbelief”, adding that she felt like she had travelled back 50 years in time. She “pushed back and discredited every statement” that was made, but she was still “hurt deeply” by what was said.

The former lacrosse coach said she made the decision “right then and there” that she would not return to Valor Christian High School, adding that it “really was not a choice”.

Benner’s comments come shortly after Tonga made headlines across the world when he said he was “pushed out” of his job as volleyball coach after staff found out he was gay.

In a lengthy Facebook post, Tonga said he was summoned to an hour and a half long meeting where he was grilled on his sexuality and asked to “denounce being gay”.

“With my head held high, and with tears ready to be shed for hours, even days, I walked away knowing that my journey as a coach at Valor Christian had come to an end – I was not going to ‘denounce identifying as a gay man’,” he wrote.

In a statement, Valor said it had come to the school’s attention that Tonga “may not support Valor’s beliefs pertaining to sexuality”.

“Although Coach Inoke has misrepresented many aspects of this matter, Valor appreciates the contributions he has made to the student-athletes in our volleyball program, and we wish him the very best in his future endeavours,” a Vaolor spokesperson said.

PinkNews has contacted Valor Christian High School for comment.

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