Community concerns over an Iroquois School District bullying assembly spilled into yet another School Board meeting and revealed increasingly diverse opinions.
The assembly in question featured gay speaker Jamie Nabozny, who spoke to middle and high school students on Oct. 24 and 25. Though some parents said their children felt it was a powerful program, most attending last month’s board meeting complained it held inappropriate content – particularly for middle school students – and approached bullying from too narrow a focus. Parents also said they should have been informed in advance or given a choice to opt their child out.
Wednesday night, however, supporters came out. The mother of a sixth-grader said, “My son was moved and not bothered by it. It opened communication in the family.”
Jamie Cunningham, the mother of a seventh- and a twelfth-grader, said the overreaction to the assembly was “an embarrassment to the community.”
One father said his 13-year-old boy has been the victim of mental and physical abuse at school. “I applaud what you’ve done. Preventative action is the right action,” he said. “Opting out is not an option.”
Other parents complained that in speaking out against the program in recent weeks they have been vilified or been labeled “homophobic bigots.” A mother of two said, “This is not a battle about gay rights, it’s about parents’ rights to raise their own child.”
She applauded the district for issuing new policies that include notifying parents about upcoming assemblies and creating a committee of diverse stakeholders to choose upcoming speakers.
After the meeting, Superintendent Douglas Scofield said he was not concerned that the topic – which drew dozens of residents at both meetings – risked overwhelming the district.
“All parties are aligning to support all students in the district and the discussion is expanding to support students and their very different needs,” the superintendent said.
Darrin Caparaso asked the board to increase the school resource officer’s hours to a full-time position as a way to reduce bullying. The current officer is shared with several other districts and is on the Iroquois campus just one day a week. Other residents asked that a second social worker be added to the staff.
Scofield said those requests will be considered in the upcoming budget process.