PEORIA — An area advocacy group for LGBTQ people slammed the Germantown Hills Middle School administration, saying recent attempts to block students from openly talking about sexual orientation is wrong.
In a statement on its Facebook page, Peoria Proud praised the actions of the student, who was discussing sexual orientation while at school, calling the district's reaction "unwarranted targeted harassment of a bisexual middle school student." The group added the matter is something that should be discussed.
"We commend this young student for speaking out about bullying and acceptance, and question the administration’s commitment to the safety and well being of the students when the students feel it falls on them to make their school safer. By forbidding conversation about sexual orientation, the Germantown School District #69 Administration further stigmatizes their LGBTQ students. We encourage Superintendent Dan Mair to reconsider putting this student through the trauma of the town hall he has called about her freedom of speech and expression," the group said on the Facebook page.
The matter came to light when middle school principal Kate Williams sent a letter home explaining the situation that occurred this week.
"We had a student distribute stickers to other students that quickly became a disruption to the learning process. Comments and questions regarding the stickers, which were rainbow hearts, were being made during class. Because of the disruptiveness of these stickers, students were told that they are not to be distributed at school. This decision had nothing to do with the intended meaning of the stickers, but everything to do with the disruption they caused," she said in her letter.
"Students," she said, "have a right to attend school free of harassment, intimidation or bullying regardless of race, creed, religion, social/economic status or sexual orientation. However, students do not have the right to dictate when and where they will discuss their sexual orientation or identity. As a school, we are trying to instill in our students, who are early adolescents, when it is appropriate to convey one’s sexual orientation and when it is inappropriate," she added.
The district was planning on holding a town hall meeting on Dec. 19 at the JDS gym with parents for further discussion, saying the district's attempts to create a "comprehensive approach to this issue that includes further educating our students on tolerance and the appropriateness or inappropriateness of discussing one’s sexual identity in the school setting" can not be done only within a school setting.
But Peoria Proud disagreed: "The Peoria Proud Board of Directors wants to be very clear, that romantic attraction and sexuality are an active part of a child's development in middle school, and conversation between students about their schoolyard crushes did not rise to the level of calling a town hall until a bi student felt she should be able to talk about her crushes in a safe supportive environment."
Andy Kravetz can be reached at 686-3283 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @andykravetz.