Next week could have been LGBTQ+ Health Awareness Week in Volusia County Schools, but a resolution failed, with three parents comparing it to promoting masturbation and pedophilia, according to the Daytona News-Journal.
During the School Board’s March 9 meeting, the resolution never received a second after a school board member made a motion to pass it. If it had passed, the week would have fallen during the district’s Spring Break.
“It was very disappointing and shocking, particularly when you think we passed the same one a year ago 5-0,” Volusia County School Board member Carl Persis told SFGN. “I said you are either a racist or you’re not. You either want to discriminate against this group of children or you don’t. You’re either homophobic or you’re not … By not supporting this, you’re sending a terrible message to the parents of these children as well as the children themselves.”
Persis was the one who made a motion to pass the resolution, with no one seconding. The resolution did not call for any education or even recognition of LGBTQ+ Health Awareness Week for students. But three parents spoke out against the resolution, according to the West Volusia Beacon, and one comment included:
“Why are we giving a week to observe such a small percentage group when there are other groups that don’t get the same? We live in a society that, rather than seek to bring a healthy and stable help to these kids, even with gender dysphoria, we in turn, embrace it as normal and give them hormone blockers and ultimately genitalia mutilation.”
And another parent said to the board members:
“So School Board members, I ask you, what if this was put into play: What if you are asked to sign on a masturbation/self-stimulation-plus Health Awareness Week? If you're asking or thinking, feeling appalled or embarrassed: That's exactly how I and several other parents felt, with the LGBTQ+ Awareness Week.”
Persis said the comments were “baffling.”
“I couldn’t even look at those parents. I mean it was just hard for me. Good thing we have on our masks so they couldn’t see my facial expression.”
But others were not happy with the resolution not passing. School board members have received comments from parents, and a petition for the awareness week to continue was created on change.org, with 115 people signing out of the goal of 200 at the time of reporting. Others took to Twitter to show their disappointment.
This is heartbreaking for Volusia County. Definitely a step backwards. I hope our LGBTQ+ students have safe spaces and trusted adults. https://t.co/0arwp7OsAQ— Christina S. Green (@MrsCSGreen) March 11, 2021
During the meeting, Persis said he read aloud the resolution line by line, asking board members what they had a problem with. They had no comment. Afterward, they shared their opinions, including that it wasn’t the job of educators to teach “politics” to students or that the topic might come up with students. School board member Anita Burnette stated the resolution was not inclusive. In a letter to the editor at the Ormond Beach Observer, she further explained that she was not in favor of the resolution because it was “toothless.”
“I could not in good conscience support a resolution that relegated such an important issue to spring break when students would not be in school,” she wrote. “The resolution dismissed the values of inclusion that it allegedly represented. We cannot keep passing toothless statements of support instead of tackling the very real problems our LGBTQ+ students are facing.”
Persis told SFGN that there's no reason to reject the resolution — that they can have a resolution as well as more work is done for LGBT students.
The editorial board of the News-Journal published an opinion piece stating that “In taking the time from their undoubtedly busy days to attend the School Board meeting and air their opinions, these three parents performed an invaluable public service: They showed School Board members exactly why such a resolution — a resolution, and so much more — is needed.”
And Persis is remaining optimistic about what the school board will do moving forward, especially as some of them face backlash.
“Now we’re about a week later and I think some good is going to come from this,” he said. “I really think the rebound on this is going to be good. I don’t know what it’s going to be, but I just have a sense I think we’re going to come at it even stronger now that they’ve had some time to reflect a little bit on what kind of a message that they sent.”