News: CJ Exclusives

Gay Seminar Teacher Investigated

Teacher probed for sexual misconduct with East Forsyth student

A co-teacher of a controversial seminar on homosexuality at last year’s taxpayer-funded Governor’s School is under investigation in Forsyth County for alleged sexual misconduct with a student.

Susan Wiseman helped lead a lecture based on a book called “The New Gay Teenager,” given at the Governor’s School West. The six-week Governor’s School is conducted every summer, with 400 students each at two locations: Salem College in Winston-Salem (West) and Meredith College in Raleigh (East).

The residential program draws public high school students who are approaching their senior years, and who are nominated by their high schools’ teachers and administrators. Students are identified as “intellectually gifted,” and the program “integrat(es) academic disciplines, the arts, and unique courses….”

According to a report in the Winston-Salem Journal on Friday, Wiseman is being investigated for allegations of sexual activity with a 17-year-old student. The report was confirmed to Carolina Journal by a source involved in the investigation.

Wiseman, according to the Journal, is a social studies teacher at East Forsyth High School. She is also listed as a youth coordinator for the Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG)-Winston-Salem.

Wiseman co-led the “New Gay Teenager” seminar with a 19-year-old office assistant at the Governor’s School — Wesley Nemenz — who is homosexual, a former Governor’s School attendee, and a student at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

The seminar was heavily criticized by James and Beverly Burrows, whose son attended the school last year and said their son returned home from the school “confused” about homosexuality as a result of the seminar, and that they have had to seek family counseling.

“We feel that this was totally inappropriate for the students who were 15, 16, and 17 years old,” the Burrowses wrote to officials at the State Department of Public Instruction last August. “We feel that our rights as parents have been violated by this program.”

The Burrowses accused the Governor’s School of having a “pro-homosexual agenda.”

DPI and Governor’s School officials defended the seminar, saying it was optional for students to attend, as is the Governor’s School itself.

The state budget fully funds the program, with $1.3 million set aside for it this fiscal year. Students are nominated based on specific areas of academic or performing-arts excellence, and pay nothing to attend, other than the cost to travel to the schools.

At least two other families were also disturbed by the changes in their children after returning from the Governor’s School last year, based on students’ writings on the MySpace Internet website.

Wiseman has not been charged with any crimes. Vanessa Jeter, a spokeswoman for the Department of Public Instruction, was unaware of the investigation and said she would make sure the agency’s attorneys were aware of it.

“We would take that kind of thing very seriously,” Jeter said.

Paul Chesser ([email protected]) is associate editor of Carolina Journal.