Tulsa School Board Faces LGBTQ Community Inclusion Issues | Education
Although not on the published agenda, the Tulsa Public Schools School Board will hear from people Monday night about its relationship with the district’s LGBTQ community.
Eight people signed up to speak about issues of LGBTQ inclusion and representation during the citizen feedback portion of Monday night’s meeting, according to the district.
The citizens’ comments section is limited to remarks on points that are not on the agenda. In accordance with board policy, its registration window closed seven days before the meeting. However, the Tulsa County Republican Party and the Tulsa County Democratic Party issued public calls to action to their members, encouraging them to report to the Educational Services Center on Monday for the 6:30 p.m. meeting.
Laura Bellis is among those who have registered to speak. A candidate for the Tulsa District 4 City Council seat, Bellis previously taught at Nathan Hale Junior High School and sponsored the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance while on the faculty.
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Bellis said she previously reached out via email about concerns about the district’s LGBTQ inclusion efforts, but wanted the conversation to be public because it involves students, staff and families.
Because the district’s LGBTQ population is not limited to a single TPS site or corner, she said she wants the entire school board to be better positioned to understand and represent these families and staff when making decisions. decisions.
“I can’t stop thinking about the students I worked with,” she says. “I want people who vote on issues that directly affect them to embrace these students for who they are. I don’t think anyone is being hateful on purpose. It’s just an opportunity to learn more, and if I can help make that happen, so much the better.
Of the eight commenters, seven did not mention any board member in their request to speak.
Eighth specifically mentioned concerns about social media posts made by District 4 Representative E’Lena Ashley. Ashley shared a meme in May claiming American third-graders were academically behind their counterparts in China and India because they spent more time learning about same-sex relationships than math or science.
She also shared a post in June implying that women’s sports are under attack from transgender athletes.
Education Secretary and Republican candidate for state superintendent Ryan Walters released a letter Friday afternoon saying only Ashley was targeted; to say that entertaining the discussion was unacceptable; and asking the TPS board to “stand up to the leftist mob” and “stop allowing school board meetings to be dominated by socialist issues.”
Although it was addressed to members of the Tulsa School Board, a district spokeswoman and board chair Stacey Woolley confirmed that the district did not receive Walters’ letter before it was released to the press. via email and to the public via social media.
In a joint statement released late Friday afternoon, Woolley and Board Vice Chairman John Croisant reiterated that despite Walters’ letter, Monday evening’s meeting will be held in accordance with the Board’s published policies. Board of Directors, including allowing comments from those who registered before the stated deadline.
“We hope that in the future, Mr. Walters will genuinely engage directly with us in a collaborative effort to address concerns and solve problems together for the benefit of Tulsa Public Schools students and all students and Oklahoma State teachers,” the statement read.
This is the second time in less than six months that the district’s efforts to provide an inclusive teaching and learning environment have been publicly challenged.
At a special meeting in March, several participants presented five demands to the district and school board to better support its Spanish-speaking students, staff, and families, including better translation services at public meetings, mandatory training in immigrant support for school board members, and diversity, equity and inclusion training for school board members and district leaders.
State law requires new school board members to complete at least 12 hours of professional training within 15 months of taking office. However, beyond stipulating a minimum of one hour each for courses related to school finances, ethics, and state laws on open meetings and open records, the law does not list specific topics. in the general categories that need to be covered.
Tulsa World Opinion: People will get involved if they see people who look like them involved