In u-46, the school board was recently called to vote on a $100,000 contract composed of the Second Step Social and Emotional Learning Program in addition to the PBIS program that u-46 has previously utilized. The PBIS program now offers support for students who have been bullied due to their sexual orientation.
According to a report aptly called The School Report (2012) published by Stonewall in collaboration with Cambridge University, 23% of gay or bisexual young people have tried to take their own lives and 56% have self-harmed. Given that we as a district have the opportunity to introduce a program that offers support to students represented by this statistic, I feel it goes without explaining how important approving this program is.
The aforementioned u-46 board member voted against the program due to the curriculum stance that, “Any time we use one of these terms [girly, retarded, gay] to put someone down, not only are we being unkind to that person, we are also connecting a negative connotation to the word we use, which is very disrespectful to women, to people with mental retardation, and to people who are gay.” This board member feels that the comparison of homosexuality to being a woman or mentally retarded is incorrect, as it is their view that being gay is a choice. Ultimately, the proposal was approved with a vote of 5-2. However, I’d like to examine certain implications regarding this turn of events.
Recently, a Minnesota school district faced a walk out staged by students in regards to racist comments made by a district board member on Facebook. In this instance, this board member put his beliefs into what should be a professional setting. In other recent news we’ve seen ramifications on the part of Kim Davis, who refused a marriage license to a homosexual couple because her beliefs did not agree with their lifestyle. I believe everyone knows how that situation developed. This has spawned a series of “Didn’t agree with this… Still did my job” jokes on social media, and every part of those jokes holds ground. In a professional setting, one needs to set aside their personal beliefs for the sake of their occupation, which in the case of u-46 board members happens to be every student in the district.
This is precisely what is not happening with this board member. Referring back to the Minnesota situation, a board member made obscenely racist comments and caused extreme unrest within the district. We live in a very progressive era, and making comments about a race is no different in today’s setting from making comments about someone’s sexual orientation. Whether or not this board member agrees with their “choice”, as the board member refers to it, I could care less. Those are their beliefs. My gripe is that they are voting against a program that offers protection to those students, allowing their personal beliefs to intrude in this professional setting.
In my eyes, this is an atrocity. This board member is denying someone equality in a school due to sexual orientation. As mentioned earlier, we live in a progressive era where this should be seen the same as if this board member voted against a minority race because they don’t appeal to that board member.
In Minnesota, students attempted to remove the board member after they made their offensive comments, as that kind of behavior is unacceptable of an elected official. If I were still in the district, I would be taking the exact same steps to remove this board member in u-46. Sexual orientation is still a touchy subject, but a certain board member in u-46 has expressedtheir disdain at those who do not fit in their belief, and that is disgusting. Their continual rejection of proposals due to them being “value judgements” or a part of a culture that this member deems as “a choice” should have no place in this or any district.