Teachers in the Perrysburg Exempted Village School District showed up in droves to the Perrysburg School Board meeting on March 14, all speaking in support of the board approving a Gender & Sexuality Alliance (GSA) club at the high school.
Perrysburg is located 12 miles southwest of Toledo in northwest Ohio
At the February 22 board meeting, some parents made statements that neither the GSA nor mentions of the LGBTQ+ community were appropriate in the high school.
“My research brought me to the professional development classes that the district paid speakers for regarding LGBTQIA+ youth,” Kam Warner said. “What does the plus sign stand for? It is controversial, but it does include pedophiles. Is Perrysburg school district accepting of pedophiles? This is a serious question.”
In a September 2021 meeting, Warner begun shouting as part of a longer verbal tirade about masks and had to be removed with a police escort. Warner is currently suing the school district over their mask mandate, even though the mandate ended in early February.
At this week’s school board meeting, teacher after teacher came to the microphone during the public participation portion of the meeting to specifically descry Warner’s comments and to more broadly voice their support for both the GSA as well as for their LGBTQ+ students.
“I see it as an extension of my job in supporting my students in and out of the classroom,” said Melissa Grossman. “These children need to see and hear our support.”
Though many of the teachers said they were not comfortable with public speaking, they saw it as their responsibility to make statements of LGBTQ+ support directly to the school board.
“We have to be here to speak up for our students,” said Kathy Mayfield, a 7th grade English language arts teacher. “At the previous board meeting, one community member claimed that the LGBTQ+ community included pedophiles and that Perrysburg teachers were being trained to accept pedophiles. This is not only harmful, but it is verifiably false.”
In addition to the teachers, 14-year-old Trevor Madigan—who described himself as a “proud gay male”—explained the vital need for the board to approve the GSA.
“Over the years at Perrysburg, after countless encounters with homophobia comments and the fear of not being accepted, a comment was made the other night that the LGBTQIA+ community accepts pedophiles and pedophilic acts. That is not correct,” said Madigan. “As a person who does not always feel 100% safe walking the halls at Perrysburg schools, after this opinion was shared, how are myself or other LGBTQ youth supposed to feel? I would love to feel safe in the school, and the GSA club would be an amazing way for myself and other LGBTQ youth to feel safe and accepted.”
Later in the meeting, each member of the board voiced their appreciation for the teachers and community members speaking out in favor of the GSA.
“I am always impressed by our teachers and their ability to identify the resources so that our students feel safe and are able to be their best selves every single day,” said board member Eric Bennington.
Special praise was given to 14-year-old Madigan.
“Yesterday I was down in Columbus watching the state wrestling tournament where these wrestlers were battling for the state championships. I don’t think any of them had the courage that you had tonight, Trevor,” said Superintendent Tom Hesler, whose comment was followed by sustained applause by those present.
The board then unanimously approved the proposal to create the GSA in the high school. 🔥
- Register your school’s GSA with the Ohio GSA Network, coordinated by Kaleidoscope Youth Center who provide resources and support for Ohio GSAs & LGBTQ+ youth.