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Talking faith, education and acceptance for all

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Tuesday's forum included Jane Clementi, whose son took his own life after a private encounter was made public. Tuesday's forum included Jane Clementi, whose son took his own life after a private encounter was made public.
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WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) – A new admission policy of a private school in Wilmington continues to fuel a very public conversation about faith, education and acceptance.

The organization Faith in America moderated a panel discussion Tuesday night on the campus of UNCW. Executive Director Brent Childers said it is important for the community to understand that there is no place for exclusion in education.

"There should be no divide between our faith communities and the LGBTQIA community," he said.

Childers told a crowd of close to 100 people that recent headlines about a private school in Wilmington showed a need for Tuesday's forum. He said placing a stigma on children, or indirectly on their parents, can be harmful to their development.

"Why would an institution that calls itself a Christian religious school want to put in place a policy or a message that is causing immense harm to innocent young people?" asked Childers.

He added that too many young people have taken their own life because a church or political group has stigmatized them for their sexual orientation.

"The church has really got to think about what it's doing to the church itself by continuing this exclusive, very hostile reaction," Childers said.

A mother's story

Jane Clementi joined Tuesday's panel. Her son Tyler took his own life after Clementi said he was cyber-bullied by his own roommate.

Years after her son's death, Clementi said someone could have saved his life if they simply provided some support to the college freshman.

"I think the story may have had a very big difference if one of the people, one of Tyler's new dorm mates, had spoken to him," she said.

Clementi urges people to be "up-standers" instead of bystanders. She said so many lives can be changed for the better if people replace hate and exclusion with love and support.

"People need to be kind to each other, and respectful, and compassionate - it's just the simple basics," said Clementi.

The Tyler Clementi Foundation strives to establish comfortable and welcoming environments for everyone.

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