Lambert principal placed on leave after Facebook posts
SOUTH FORSYTH — Students at Lambert High remained divided in response and opinion the day after Principal Gary Davison was placed on temporary leave.
The decision Thursday seemed to stem from students speaking out online against Facebook posts the educator had shared. Most of the posts in question were wary of Islam and the LGBT community.
Since then, students who are currently enrolled at the school at Old Atlanta Highway and Nichols Road, as well as alumni, have written letters, shared on Facebook and signed a petition.
A range of responses have come in. They vary from calling for Davison’s firing or agreeing with his comments to refusing to take part in graduation this May unless he returns.
Davison opened Lambert in 2009 after serving as principal of South Forsyth High and Settles Bridge Elementary schools.
A Change.org petition was created about 8 p.m. Thursday, some three hours after Davison’s suspension was announced. As of Friday night, it had more than 2,400 signatures.
Lambert has 2,953 students, according to the most recent Forsyth County Schools' attendance report, making it the largest high school in the Forsyth system.
The top comment on the petition was authored by Mason Lord, a senior at Lambert. In the response, he said Davison has a right to express his opinion and that removing him from his position because of what he says is oppressive.
The comment continued in an open letter to Davison, in which Lord wrote, “What you said is disturbing. I am shocked you feel that way, and I do hope this teaches you to think before speaking from a stance of ignorance, and I hope you will stop belittling other people’s religions and character traits.
“However, I will stand by you through this. I will not let the oppressive ideas of some of my peers silence me, like they are trying to silence you. Although I think your opinion is disgusting, you are entitled to such an opinion.”
Another student who signed the petition commented, “This year I began my transition from male to female, with administrational support … He may not support me, other LGBT kids, and especially not Muslim students personally, and that is too bad. I wholeheartedly disagree with him. But his personal opinion should not matter … He has made it very clear, at least with me, that his opinion does not come into play as an administrator.”
Charlie Hulett, a senior at Lambert, mirrored those sentiments.
“His personal beliefs and opinions do make people mad, but that doesn’t take away from the job he has done since the high school broke ground,” Hulett said. “His right, as an American, is to express whatever opinion he feels is correct. To an extent, the county shouldn’t allow public figures to hold certain ones, but his position isn’t violent and can’t be acted on in his place.
“Our society today cares too much about what goes on online, rather than what is happening and has happened in front of them.”
Not all responses have been in support of Davison.
His posts came to light Wednesday when Yassin Watson, a 2015 graduate of Lambert, began sharing them.
“The line between having an opinion and sharing it is blurry, but what I take from it is that those who follow him will feel at ease to spew the same hate speech to a large demographic of his students,” Watson said. “I think that people are definitely entitled to share and post their opinions. I think it should not interfere with their professional lives.”
Comments Watson shared from other people on Facebook focused on what they described as the higher standard Davison and other educators should be held to when expressing opinions.
"No one's denying the great things that Dr. Davison has done for this community at large. No one's questioning his character. No one wants to ruin a man's career. No one wants to watch a good man and his family suffer. Whoever is driven by that pleasure is more of a bully than he is,” said a post Watson shared early Friday morning.
“Firing him is not the solution because the person who takes his place will be more or less the same. However, Dr. Davison and every other teacher/faculty member/leader/role model has a duty to treat every student equally.
“Yes, he loved us and worked hard for us day in and day out, but all the while, there are countless testimonies dating from the day Lambert opened to today where students are bullied and demeaned because of their identities … Willingly ignorant or just plain unaware, it's his responsibility to serve the best interests of all his students.”