FORT MYERS, Fl. — It’s a policy that has been on the books for almost a year now.
Members of the Lee County School Board revisited the debate over the district’s LGBTQ code of conduct Tuesday night. It was a much calmer scene inside that school board meeting compared to those in the past. It’s all on the heels of changes being shown in the current code of conduct.
“We really need to hear language from the board discussing what they’re going to do as an alternative to removing this best practice policy,” says Crystal Czyscon, a member of the SWFL Coalition for LGBTQ Youth.
A total of 38 speakers lined up for public comment, a majority in favor of keeping the school district’s LGBTQ code of conduct. The conduct includes things like allowing students to dress and use the restroom of the gender they identify with. Those opposed argued there are teachers and students who are afraid to speak for fear of losing their jobs. They also said it’s the policy they are opposing, believing the decision does not fall to the school.
Red lines have been added to the code of conduct, indicating changes to be made. Changes such as those to pronouns, from ‘his or her’ to ‘their.’ To group’s like the SWFL Coalition for LGBTQ Youth, removing the LGBTQ code of conduct page would tell those students they are not supported.
“Violence against the transgender gender non-conformant community is at levels that they’ve never seen before," says Czyscon. "Since they started recording in 2013, HRC has reported 44 transgender deaths this year alone. We live in an area now where they’re even discussing putting safety policies in place for our transgender youth. It really opens up the door to more violence, more misinformation. What we really need to do right now is support our most vulnerable.”
“I want to represent the kids who can’t come out and speak. The kids who don’t have parents who will bring them or support system to get out here or are too scared to come out here and speak.”
Emmie Spiller was one of several students to address the board during the meeting. Many of these students are asking to feel safer at school.
“We will not be silent, whether there’s a poster or not," said Spiller. "Taking it down or keeping it up- we are still here and we still exist as a community. We cannot continue to live on in silence or fear, that’s not the way it should be. Especially not in public schools where they try to tell kids that they are safe, that they are protected when their lives- our lives- daily are being threatened.”
For these students, it comes down to a single point.
“We are just trying to live and that’s what it comes down to," says Spiller. "We are trying to live a life as they are. We are not ignoring them. We’re not trying to erase their existence. They want to try to say that we’re trying to ignore straight people- they’re ignoring us just by doing so.”
The school board is expected to vote on the matter in two week's time. That next meeting is scheduled for June 8 at 6:00 p.m.