Inoke Tonga, the volleyball coach at Highlands Ranch’s Valor Christian High School, says he was pushed out of his job last week after employees found a social media post indicating the coach was gay.
Tonga says administrators had called him in for a meeting, in which they expressed their concerns over his sexuality and the affect it may have on the students.
“I sat in the room being grilled about how being gay is a ‘danger’ to the school and to the kids,” Tonga wrote on Instagram. “That with me ‘identifying as a gay man, they can’t put the kids at risk by having me in front of them.’”
He continued: “One of them even said ‘I don’t want to seem like I’m hanging a coaching position over your head to ‘convert’ you, but we just can’t have you in front of the kids if you identify that way.’ The other followed by saying ‘and we will make an email for you to send out and make sure that it states that you are away for personal matters, so that way when you make your decision to accept God and our help, you can come back and they don’t have to know of your spiritual battle.’”
Tonga said he was ultimately presented with two options: either denounce his sexuality or resign. He went on to say he was belittled by administrators for about 90 minutes, and ultimately walked out of the room knowing his days at the school were over.
“I was not going to ‘denounce identifying as a gay man,’ which according to them would lead to me being released as a coach …” he wrote, before addressing the school’s claims that he stepped down by choice. “Yes, I chose not to denounce my sexuality, but they left out the part where they pushed me out.”
Valor Christian High School responded to Tonga’s claims in the following statement to the Post.
Valor Christian High School embraces, loves and respects all students, families and other participants in our community, regardless of whether or not they agree with Valor’s beliefs. 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 endeavors.
On Tuesday, about 50 Valor Christian High School students walked out of the classroom to protest Tonga’s departure. Some held pride flags and messages of support for the LGBTQ community. One former student also participated in the demonstration, claiming he, too, experienced homophobia during his time at the private school.
“I’m disappointed and disgusted by this, but not surprised,” the alumnus, 21-year-old Cole Watson, told the Post.
Tonga says he has not spoken to school administrators since the aforementioned meeting, but was open to returning to the Valor Christian High.
“I want to work with these kids. They help me and motivate me to be closer to God,” Tonga told CNN. “I want to stay at this school because of these kids.”
Another former Valor Christian High School coach also came forward to accuse the school of pushing her out because of her sexuality. 32-year-old Lauren Benner, who was a lacrosse coach at the school, shared her story after being inspired by Tonga, the Denver Post reported.
See Tonga’s most recent post below.