PERRYSBURG – A new Genders/Sexuality Alliance Club received support from the board of education, following inflammatory remarks from a resident during the February school board meeting.
Board members voted unanimously in support of the creation of the new Genders/Sexuality Alliance Club at the March 14 meeting.
“The fact that we put in the word ‘all’ to me, that is significant,” Sue Larimer, board of education member, said in reference to the school mission statement. “We need to love and honor all of our students.”
The official club description also referenced the statement: “It will help meet the district’s mission of ensuring all students achieve their greatest potential.”
“I just think that this would be an additional good fit,” board member Kelly Ewbank said, adding that she was “shocked that we already didn’t have a group.”
During the public comment section of the Feb. 22 board meeting, resident Kam Warner questioned LGBTQIA+ support by the district with a claim that several speakers at the March meeting called “hate speech.”
”What does the plus sign stand for? It is controversial, but it does include pedophiles. Is Perrysburg School district accepting of pedophiles? This is a serious question,” Warner said.
Parents, teachers, local residents, a city council woman and 14-year-old Perrysburg High School student Trevor Madigan spoke in support of the creation of the new Genders/Sexuality Alliance Club at Perrysburg Junior High School.
“This is not correct.” Madigan said in response to Warner’s question.
Among the topics brought up in support for the club, were safety and combating bullying.
Further supporting the club, Madigan said “I would love to feel safe in school and a GSA club would be an amazing way for myself and other LGBTQ+ youth to feel safe and accepted.”
Just prior to the vote, Superintendent Tom Hosler called Madigan’s statement courageous.
Pointing out club opposition members in the audience was local activist Robert Vanitvelt.
“Shame. Shame to lean into a dying rhetoric that causes harm to others, Shameful,” Vanitvelt said. “When we lean into a false diatribe from a dying propaganda driven lie, it’s dangerous.”
Board member Lori Reffert called the speakers in that night as a previously “silent majority,” who she was glad to hear from.
Reffert also spoke of her duty to students, with her job as a board member.
“We are here to protect them, love them and help them in any way we can, to achieve their fullest potential,” Reffert said.
The club approval was part of the consent agenda as a district sponsored event.
The club description noted that members would feel supported and with would help students identify adults in the building who support them.
Research supporting the mitigating role of such clubs in preventing the negative impact of bullying and harassment experienced by some LGBT students was also noted in the description and was distributed to administration and board members.
“LGBT students in schools with Genders/Sexuality Alliance clubs are less likely to hear biased language, such as homophobic remarks, are less likely to feel unsafe in school because of their sexual orientation and gender expression, and are less likely to miss days of school because they are afraid to go,” noted the club description in the board notes.