'30 Rock' actor Maulik Pancholy speaks out after school board cancels author's visit

A “30 Rock” actor whose school attendance was canceled because of his “lifestyle” speaks out.

Maulik Pancholy, who played Jack Donaghy's (Alec Baldwin) assistant Jonathan in the NBC sitcom, said his “sympathies” go out to the students and community of Pennsylvania, where a school board voted unanimously to cancel his visit.

“When I visit schools, my 'activism' is to show all young people that they are seen. To show them that they matter,” Pancholy, 50, wrote on Thursday under a video on Instagram.

The school board voted 8-0 to cancel Pancholy's May 22 appearance at Mountain View Middle School in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, during a public meeting posted on social media on Monday. Cumberland Valley School District board members said they were concerned about his political involvement and “lifestyle,” reportedly a reference to Pancholy being openly gay.

USA TODAY has reached out to the Cumberland Valley School Board and Pancholy's representative for comment.

Pancholy, also known as the voice of Baljeet Tjinder in “Phineas and Ferb” and Sanjay Patel in “Weeds,” has written two middle-grade children’s books: “The Best At It” (2019), about an aspiring gay Indian-American boy, and “Nikhil Out Loud” (2022), about middle-school theater kids who stand up against homophobia. In addition to public speaking and school visits, his website mentions his activist work as part of former President Barack Obama’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and as co-founder of the commission’s anti-bullying campaign, Act To Change, which is now a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

“When I talk about the characters in my books feeling 'different,' I'm always surprised by how many young people – regardless of their identity and background – want to raise their hand and share how they, too, feel different,” he said in his Instagram post.

Pancholy continued, “That's the power of books. They create empathy. I wonder why a school board is so afraid of that.”

The actor said he had heard from current and former students and teachers at the school thanking them for “the great solidarity, love and support.”

Parents and teachers in the Cumberland Valley school district also expressed their displeasure with the school board's decision in the post.

“As parents in the Cumberland Valley School District, we are fighting for you with all our might right now. There is a school board meeting on May 6th and we are ready to advocate!” commented one parent.

“As a CV parent, I stand behind you. I stand behind everything you had to say that was silenced by the school board. I too ask: WHAT WERE YOU AFRAID OF? #replacetheeight,” wrote another parent.

“As teachers in the Cumberland Valley School District, we stand with you and against our board,” another comment said. “You do not represent the love and support we feel for your achievements, your representation, and the members of the LGBTQ+ community. We are making our voices heard!”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 30 Rock actor Maulik Pancholy talks about missing school

Anna Harden

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