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Nine people gave passionate, emotional pleas to end harassment and discrimination against LGBTQ staff, during the public comment section of the District 65 School Board meeting on Sept. 23. During each person’s statement, about 50 people stood in solidarity.
Many of the statements centered around allegations that a District 65 staff member told a transgender teacher that the teacher was going to hell, that a staff member openly prayed in a classroom to save the transgender teacher, that a staff member told the transgender teacher the teacher should not be around children, that a staff member told the transgender teacher on the playground that many staff members were not comfortable with the teacher being in the building and that there was a meeting scheduled to discuss the discomfort; that a staff member refused to change the name of the transgender teacher on the teacher’s mailbox and outgoing email; that a staff member refused to use the pronouns selected by the teacher.
The transgender teacher filed several complaints about these alleged incidents. While the District took some actions, it did not end the alleged harassment or discrimination, said the teacher and other speakers.
“My purpose in bringing this to the public is to challenge the District to take a stand to protect the LGBT community,” said one speaker.
“Teachers, like students, should feel safe in school,” said another speaker. “District 65 should take immediate action to protect its employees as well as its students from gender-based discrimination and harassment.”
Many of the speakers urged the Board to hire a consultant to finish a proposed policy which would prohibit harassment or discrimination against staff members based on gender identity. In addition, many urged the Board to provide training focused on staff-to-staff harassment and discrimination.
The final speaker on the issue said they were speaking “as a transgender” teacher, that they were the teacher referred to by the other speakers, and that their preferred pronouns are “they,” “them” and “theirs.”
“The last three years have brought me a level of pain I thought I would never have to experience, especially not at my place of work. … Do you know what’s worse than being told you’re going to hell, that you shouldn’t be around children and that you make people uncomfortable – all because you’re transgender – being left completely on my own, being shown time and time again that my life is not worth protecting.
“I’m here to stay and maybe one day you will show me the love, support and protection I deserve.
“You are sending the message that this is not a District for transgender teachers, and by doing that you are sending a message this is not a District for transgender students. You should be ashamed of yourselves. It is time to do better.”
Meg Krulee, the President of the District Educators Council (DEC, the teachers union), told members of the School Board they should extend the same protections to LGBTQ staff as they have provided to LGBTQ students. She also asked that the Board retain an outside consultant who is an expert in LGBTQ issues to assist in the creation of this policy.
At the conclusion of the public comment section, Board President Suni Kartha said, “We have heard you.”