To the Editor:
After reading the text messages exchanged between members of the Iredell-Statesville Schools Board of Education, I would like to say that I am highly disappointed in the “leadership” we have in the school district. As a gay student, I feel extremely disrespected, unwanted, offended, and exasperated towards our current board.
Board has clearly violated its own policy
The Iredell Statesville Schools Board of Education Policy Manual, Policy Code: 4000 Focus on Students, states the following:
The board recognizes that providing students with the opportunity to receive a sound basic education must be the primary focus of each school, the school district and the board. To support students in their formal education, each school should strive for a learning environment in which:
♦ school grounds, buildings and classrooms are safe, orderly, clean and inviting;
♦ students learn and practice responsible behavior;
♦ students are treated fairly; and
♦ students have input in decisions affecting them when feasible.
As a student and member of the LGBTQ+ community, I feel obligated to provide my perspective on this issue. I believe that it is a feasible time to provide my input on a situation that is affecting me.
School board members are focused on party politics
During one of the board’s exchanges in the text messages, District 5 Board member Mike Kubiniec, inquired about a mental health grant that the district applied for. Mr. Kubiniec wants to make sure that “gender identity/affirming ‘care’, LGBTQ+123ABC ‘care’, and other such things” are not in the grant before it is approved. Mr. Kubiniec would allow a larger grant to be lost than to provide mental health care to struggling LGBTQ+ students in the district. In my opinion, this member values party politics over the wellbeing of all students. This is political for the following reasons:
♦ Conservative mass media outlets speak out against Gender Affirming Health Care;
♦ Mr. Kubiniec clearly does not believe that gender identity/affirming care is true care;
♦ State legislatures across the U.S. are passing various bills such as Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill prohibiting gender identity/affirming care.
Instead of focusing on the need for LGBTQ mental health care, Mr. Kubiniec wants to focus on advancing his “non-woke” agenda. He references the LGBTQ+ community as “LGBTQ+123ABC.” That is insulting. By doing this, he is mocking this community. That phrase was not made with good thoughts. Mr. Kubiniec is trying to use his power as a school board member to advance his political views rather than trying to support the district’s students. The school district had no plans to use the grant funds to specifically help LGBTQ+ students. As Superintendent James texted: “No, we write our grants so none of that would ever be written in.” Instead of pushing his personal political beliefs, Mr. Kubiniec and the rest of the board should be working to support efforts to help students.
‘A walking talking version of the books that should not be here’
Matthew Thomas-Reid, an LGBTQ advocate, was scheduled to speak at an afterschool club meeting at Oakwood IB School. Before moving on to high school, I attended Northview IB under Dr. Carrie Tulbert’s leadership. I know for a fact that the staff at the school does not push a political agenda. If anything, this event would have been an event related to tolerance or open-mindedness. These are traits that these board members need to adopt. In the illegal text messages, Distric 3 representatitve stated that she was uncomfortable with the event. The superintendent replied, “Yes, sad. Matt did teach for us years back. He wanted to do research last year with doctoral students and I told him no.” I was shocked by Mr. Kubiniec’s response when he questioned why the board allows “this type of stuff – optional or not.” District 4 representative Doug Knight’s comments were also very telling: “This man should not be in our schools pushing his agenda. A walking talking version of books that should not be here.” How inappropriate. Why do board officials get to dictate what students are exposed to? If it is not going to hurt the student, and they have the option to not view the content, and it is appropriate, then why conceal it? The only agenda I see being pushed is this board’s anti-LGBTQ agenda. People like this are the problem.
LGBTQ students need empathy, not hate
Here are a few statistics from the Trevor Project, a non profit suicide prevention organization for LGBTQ youth:
♦ For people aged 10 to 24, the second leading cause of death is suicide (Hedegaard, Curtin, & Warner, 2018).
♦ LGBTQ youth are four times as likely to attempt suicide than their peers (Johns et al., 2019; Johns et al., 2020).
♦ The Trevor Project’s 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that 45 percent of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth.
As a community, we cannot wait for suicide to happen. This is a problem in our national community. We need to stand up and take preventative actions before it is too late. In order to prevent suicide, we need to recognize that we are not going to fully understand what other people are going through. We need to try to be more empathetic people.
A few preventative factors for LGBTQ youth suicides include:
♦ Having an accepting adult can reduce the change of an LGBTQ youth committing suicide by 40 percent. You don’t even have to encourage it – just accept it.
♦ A 2021 peer-reviewed study by The Trevor Project’s researchers, published in Transgender Health, found that transgender and nonbinary youth who reported gender identity acceptance from adults and peers had significantly lower odds of attempting suicide in the past year.
♦ Reduced suicide rates can come from schools and homes that are LGBTQ-affirming.
♦ Having Gender and Sexuality alliances can reduce the risk for depression.
We need a school board that understands that LGBTQ students are people — we are not mistakes or products of years of indoctrination. LGBTQ students deserve to be respected and given an environment where they have the ability to function just as well as their counterparts.
Unethical board members have demonstrated they are unfit to serve
Every member of the Iredell-Statesville Schools Board of Education should resign. These members have demonstrated through their words that they have no moral compass when it comes to the wellbeing of all students. As Board Policy 4000 says, “all students should be treated fairly.” When a group of students is targeted, they are not being treated fairly. What took place in this group text is highly inappropriate and unethical and should have never happened. If these board members are not going to resign, then they should make a public apology to the district’s LGBTQ+ students.
Editor’s Note: The writer is a rising junior in an I-SS high school. The student’s name is not being published due to concerns for the student’s personal safety and wellbeing.