Maulik Pancholy spoke out after his planned author visit to a Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, school was canceled by the school district because of his “lifestyle.”

Pancholy, the out gay actor known for his roles in Weeds and 30 Rock, was scheduled to appear at Mountain View Middle School on May 22 to discuss his children’s books The Best at It and Nikhil Out Loud. Then, last week, the Cumberland Valley School District unanimously voted to rescind his invitation to the school, CNN reports​. One board member, Bud Shaffner, said at the meeting, “He labels himself as an activist, he is proud of his lifestyle, and I don’t think that should be imposed upon our students at any age.”

Thousands have signed a petition protesting the cancellation, and Pennsylvania Sen. John Fetterman called the district’s decision “deeply wrong.”

Pancholy addressed the decision on Instagram, saying, “As a middle schooler, I never saw myself represented in the stories around me. I couldn’t find books that featured South Asian-American or LGBTQ+ characters. They didn’t exist. And when I set out to write my own novels so many years later, I was still hard-pressed to find those stories. It’s why I wrote my books in the first place. Because representation matters.”

He continued, “When I visit schools, my ‘activism’ is to let all young people know that they’re seen. To let them know that they matter.…That’s the power of books. They build empathy. I wonder why a school board is so afraid of that?”

Michael Schaub is a contributing writer