Bellbrook-Sugarcreek Schools vote to remove verbiage that protects LGBTQ+ students, staff

BELLBROOK — The Bellbrook-Sugarcreek School Board spent nearly five hours Thursday night to first discuss, then vote on a revision of district policy that would remove protections for LGBTQ+ students and staff, according to opponents of the new change.

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People packed the cafeteria at Bellbrook High to let the school board know how they felt. One high school student became emotional while speaking about being bullied in school for who she is.

“They call us the ‘F’ slur and they were just being very rude to us,” Reagan Daily said.

According to current district policy, “The board will vigorously enforce its prohibition against discriminatory harassment based on race, color, national origin, sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity), disability, age (except as authorized by law), religion, ancestry, or genetic information that are protected by federal civil rights laws.”

The change sought to cut out the words “sexual orientation and gender identity,” News Center 7 Reporter Brandon Lewis, who covered the meeting, reported.

After hearing comments from the public for over an hour and a half, the board voted, 5-0, to remove the language that explicitly protected LGBTQ+ students and staff from harassment and discrimination.

The board cited that the language was “too broad” and needed to coincide with the “current legal landscape,” Lewis reported. Opponents stated that the change would, in fact, narrow the “broad” scope of legal protection and begin to expose LGBTQ+ students and staff to now legally allowed forms of discriminatory harassment based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The board also voted to amend another discriminatory harassment policy that originally stated, “The Board of Education is committed to providing a safe, positive, productive, and nurturing educational environment for all of its students.”

With the new vote to amend the policy, the board will seek to specify which protected groups will have a “safe, positive, productive, and nurturing educational environment.” Given the previous vote to remove explicit protections to LGBTQ+ students and staff, the verbiage will likely commit a “safe” educational environment for only those listed by the former policy.

This vote came after over 30 community members voiced their opposition to the change.

Lewis attempted to question board members of their decision, their choice of language in their reasoning, and the foreseeable ramifications; however, the members rejected answering any follow up questions, according to the News Center 7 reporter.

Lewis spoke with concerned parents after the vote to hear what they had to say.

“By removing that verbiage of sexual orientation and gender identity, they are targeting these kids,” Heidi Hacker, a mother who lived in the region for 40 years and sent three children through the school system, said. “These kids are already subject to so much bullying. Their suicidal ideation and their suicidal attempts are so much higher than a heterosexual kid. It’s hard... and they’re making it harder.”

“By removing this verbiage, all they are doing is helping the bullies,” Heidi continued.

“They don’t care about our kids again,” Rebecca Hacker added. “They have... no feelings for anyone else unless it benefits them.”

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