Editor’s Note: Statesville High School students wrote the following letters to Iredell-Statesville Schools Board of Education members in response to an Iredell Free News investigation detailing the board’s secret meetings in which they discussed school district business by text message, expressed their concerns about the presence of LGBTQ advocates in local schools, and joked about how to address student discipline issues at Statesville High School.

Dear Brian Sloan:

You claim you can run my school better than our current principal, but can you really? Can you, a man who can’t even take a simple meeting seriously — “Mr. Past My Bedtime” — run Statesville High School? I don’t think you can be done with everything by 9 p.m. if you’re running a school, do you?

You regard my school as if it’s a building full of criminals and delinquents. I admit Statesville High has had its issues, but so have the other schools. Yet you, and all of the other BOE members, repeatedly shun and single out SHS.

If you think lowly of the school, then you think lowly of the staff that work there, the students that learn there, and the successful graduates who once walked these halls. (Speaking of walking these halls, when was the last time any of you actually visited?) That is just something I cannot stand for. But what angers me the most is that you all think so lowly of SHS, a school I attend, a school all members of my family have attended, and a school I fully intend to send my children to.

While we’re on the topic of SHS students, let’s talk about your decision regarding the LGBTQIA+ community and advocating for it. You voted “no” on allowing an advocate to speak at Oakwood IB, and one could argue that this was because you did not want the middle schoolers overly exposed to certain things, but the aforementioned advocate was once a district employee, so one would assume that he/she/they would know what not to expose the children to. So the only logical conclusion that I personally came to is that you are against the LGBTQIA+ community, a community of which many students in your school systems are apart of, myself included.

You vote “no” on teaching middle schoolers about a community they will see almost everyday in school, at work, in the store, just in general something they will always see. So is it not better to have them informed and well educated, then to have them enter high school ignorant and naive, and to carry whatever ideas they’ve had to create on their own because the school system failed to teach them, with them throughout life?

All of these things circle back to my main reason for writing his letter, can you really run this school better?

A Junior at Statesville High School

Dear School Board Members:

I am writing to you in regards to the illegal messages that have now been displayed publicly. As a student of Statesville High, I feel the need to speak out against these ignorant statements. They put forward ignorant “solutions” on how to deal with the issues of the school and mock the staff and students.

These messages only prove how some of the members of the Iredell-Statesville Schools Board of Education do not care about the well-being of the students. Like when Anita Kurn suggested having a Thunderdome in the middle of the football field and charging admission. How do we trust the people who only see the worst in us to handle what the funding for our schools? They don’t see the hardworking students or the athletes who not only break state records but are committed to their studies.

It is quite offensive how they chose to only target SHS for the fights when there are fights in schools all over I-SS. Maybe try to find an actual solution for these issues instead of sitting there gossiping like teenagers. The weak apology from Chairman Howell does nothing. He only apologized for breaking the law, not for the hurtful things said.

An SHS junior

Dear School Board:

I found out about your actions in a news article I just read. Your conduct is unacceptable. I am a student at Statesville High School. I am currently in the 11th grade, in AP US History, AP Language Arts, a Beta Club member, a junior marshal, ranked 10th in my class, and a student-athlete. Representing my school is a big role for me. I will wholeheartedly represent my school 100 percent. It’s not okay to joke and target our school as if we were as little as a crumb. As I read this news article, I see that y’all recognize us as this colored school full of undisciplined kids who are not important. That’s what I get when I read the article. Y’all laugh, joke and make fun of us as if it’s okay to do so. Well, it’s not. We are real people. We have life issues that push a select few of us to react the way we do. You all belittle us as if our issues shouldn’t affect our actions, but how can you possibly understand what’s going on? Y’all dictate your opinions on how a few act at our school, but you don’t see the ones who work hard, and actually fight for their futures. You don’t see the ones who want to come bigger than this city. It seems you only see the few who fight and cause violence. Honestly, I’m sick of being judged on how my peers act. Because that’s not how I act.

A Junior Marshal at SHS

Dear Iredell-Statesville Schools Board of Education:

I am writing this letter to share with you my own thoughts on what you all have said about Iredell-Statesville Schools but most importantly about Statesville High School. As a Statesville High School student, I felt targeted by the school board members who were illegally sending text messages to one another and talking down and making jokes about SHS.

Board members were aware that their secret text messages were illegal and were public records yet they continued to meet secretly by text messages. Even after Chairman Howell warned the other members of this, they did not stop and did not care about the consequences of their messages. In these messages, board member Brian Sloan said that it was “past my bedtime,” and “I make a motion we try end all meetings by at least 9 p.m.” This only shows that the I-SS board members do not care about listening to what people have to say and that they just want to get it over with and go home. This is not what students of Iredell-Statesville Schools need. We need people who will actually take our education seriously.

In these text messages board members also bring up Statesville High School. They did not bring up this school to talk about how wonderful it is or about how much better the school has been doing. They bring up SHS to make jokes about the violence that goes on at the school. These jokes are made at the expense of students and teachers. Instead of looking for solutions to help SHS, they joke about having “Statesville High students fight in ‘Thunderdome” (Thunderdome commonly refers to steel-cage fights to the death from the film “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome”.) The worst of this is that board member Anita Kurn said, “Why not just have Thunderdome in the middle of the football field. We can charge admission.” Not only are they making jokes about having young high school students fighting to the death, but also to charge admission for anyone who would want to watch. This is just wrong on many levels and immoral.

In conclusion, I believe that the students of Iredell-Statesville schools deserve better. They deserve to have a school board with people who actually care about their education and are willing to do anything to help the students. We don’t need a board full of people who do not take their jobs seriously and who don’t care about their students and that are too lazy to actually find solutions to help their students.

We deserve better.

SHS student

Dear Iredell-Statesville Schools Board of Education:

As a rising senior at Statesville High school, I am disappointed in the way my school and LQBTQ+ topics are talked about by this board. As a member of the board, your job is to set policies and general procedures to help and benefit the schools. As I read through the IFN Investigation article produced by Iredell Free News, I was disappointed in the childish and unprofessional behavior exhibited by the members of the Board of Education.

In the article where text messages between the members are displayed, I was extremely upset by the comments about the LGBTQ speaker at Oakwood Middle School and the $17 million mental health grant. In response to the comments “I am not comfortable with this. This has nothing to do with school.” written by Ms. Trent and “Middle school? Really?” written by Mr. Kubiniec, I say the only people whose comfort should matter are students — not the board members — and the topic of LGBTQ has everything to do with school. There is no one too young or too old to talk about topics like this. With the freedom of speech given to us all by the First Amendment, how do you all feel comfortable denying the speaker the right to speak at this event? I believe it is selfish to only think about your comfort, Ms. Trent. Imagine the comfort of those middle schoolers who are already apart of the LGBTQ community, Ms. Trent and Mr. Kubiniec. Forty-five percent of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year. Students spend the majority of their life in school. They should be comfortable in the building they spend most of their time in. Again, your job should always put the students’ needs first, not your own. So showing concern over accepting a $17 million mental health grant because of possible “gender identity/affirming ‘care’, LGBTQ+123ABC ‘care’, and other things” is unprofessional. Your beliefs shouldn’t bleed into the decision of a $17 million mental health grant. The youth today are facing many problems. Your job is to provide for safety and exceed the needs of students. This mental health grant would help students who suffer from anxiety, depression, eating disorders, etc. Your questions about this grant makes me and other students question whether or not you all are doing your job correctly.

As a student of Statesville High for almost two years, I’ve heard multiple negative comments about my school. But to hear disrespectful comments about my school from board members is disappointing. Proposing the idea that “school board members be allowed to carry guns” in response to school violence, as Mr. Kubiniec suggested, is implausible. School violence is an important problem across all schools, which should be solved/prevented. The conversation about “having Thunderdome in the middle of the football field” at Statesville High seriously bothers me. Playful or not, joking about children fighting to the death and charging admission is just disrespectful. There seems to be no talk about solving the problem, just making fun of it. Just like other schools, Statesville High does have some problems. But I honestly feel like we are the only ones being scrutinized for it. I’m not writing to point fingers on which school is worse, but the truth is Statesville High is a majority black school in the middle of town. Other schools like South Iredell and West Iredell are tucked away in the country surrounded by farmland. Statesville High will always have eyes on it, but we should also be honored for our accomplishments instead of only scrutinized for a few bad incidents. After reading my letter and letters written by my classmates, I hope you all apply the criticism and do what is right.

Future salutatorian, member of Iredell Youth Leadership and Statesville High School Beta Club

Dear I-SS school Board:

As the valedictorian in my junior class at SHS, I believe the Board of Education has failed to properly represent my school. It is very unprofessional to speak of a violence issue at a public school as if it were a game and a way to make a profit off of the students. This issue is not a laughing matter, but it was seen as one by board members Brian Sloan and Anita Kurn. Being a member of the Board of Education comes with great responsibility as an expectation of a professional character. The character exhibited by Chairman Howell does not meet this standard. In the string of messages, which are an illegal meeting, the chairman consistently mentions his struggle with anger and aggressive behavior. This is extremely unprofessional and maybe he should seek some help. I see nothing funny about putting students in a metal cage and having them fight to the death as characters do in ‘Thunderdome.’ Sloan and Kurn have done nothing to help solve the issue; all they have done is ridicule SHS and laugh at our students.

Having held a meeting in secret behind the public’s back is unprofessional enough. In fact, it is against the law. The board members should be charged or removed from their positions.

As it is stated in the name, the board is about education. Yet Abby Trent is worried about needing the county to be more conservative. Education has absolutely nothing to do with politics. Even worse is the disrespect Trent and Kubiniec have for the LGBTQ+ community. Kubiniec referred to this group as “LGBTQ+123ABC,”  which is extremely disrespectful and insensitive for him to say because students are also part of the LGBTQ+ community in the school system. If he won’t accept the $17 million mental health grant because he fears the district may have to use a portion of the money to provide support for students in this community, he is flat out homophobic.

If the board members see no issue in what they have said, then I believe they do not deserve the position they were given. They do not represent the schools; they represent their own selfish ideas. I think it is time to stop the defamation of SHS. We will not stand it any longer.

Thank you for your time,
A Statesville High junior

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