Fifty-two school board directors from 25 Pennsylvania school districts condemned the Central Bucks School board majority for “promoting intolerance,” “discrimination,” and targeting LGBTQ students “for political gain.”
The directors denounced Central Bucks’ policy of censoring “advocacy activity” and described it as an “attack” on LGBTQ students in CBSD and marginalized communities across the Commonwealth in a letter to families and students of the Pennsylvania.
The directors have called on Central Bucks officials to repeal the policy immediately.
“School boards and individual school board directors should work to help support these populations, not attack them,” the letter said. “Unfortunately, this is exactly what a majority of the Central Bucks School District’s school board recently did…”
The letter continues, “The consequences of implementing extreme and partisan policies that stifle a student’s ability to learn true history, fully express themselves, and be supported by the people around them will be regrettable and irrevocable.”
“These issues are not political issues for me…These are human rights issues. This is not the job we were elected to do, and we have to stand up for it,” said Abby Deardorff, a Spring-Ford Area school board member in Montgomery County, who helped organize the writing and signing of the letter.
The “advocacy” policy bans Pride flags, according to Central Bucks School District officials. In January, a high school principal reportedly cited the policy when he ordered a librarian to remove posters with a quote from Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor.
The district has also passed policies and guidelines that the ACLU of Pennsylvania believes have perpetuated an overall “toxic” environment for LGBTQ children, including requiring teachers not to use student gender-correct pronouns or names without permission. parents, punishing staff who speak out against anti-LGBTQ policies, and directing counselors to separate elementary students based on their sex assigned at birth – rather than their gender identity – for puberty classes.
Central Bucks is also taking steps that could result in up to five library books being banned, four of which focus on LGBTQ characters. The Independence Law Center, a conservative Christian law firm linked to the anti-LGBT Christian nationalist group Family Research Council, has looked into recent updates to the books policy.
Deardorff said he feels “shock, outrage and disgust” at the actions of the Central Bucks School District.
Scott Overland, vice president of the Phoenixville-area school board in Chester County and a signatory to the letter, said he believes Central Bucks endorsing such “aggressive and obnoxious” policies are opening the door for other districts to follow his example.
“It’s not a Central Bucks problem. This is a problem for all of us in this state and in this country,” Deardorff said. “We, as public school board directors, need to promote public school. These groups are attacking public education.”
Deardorff said she’s also concerned about how the school board is spending taxpayer money. The district recently hired a public relations firm, Devine and Partners, for an estimated $15,000 a month, and the law firm Duane Morris, whose attorney Bill McSwain is paid $940 an hour, to look into the complaint. of the ACLU.
Now that the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court has ruled that the state’s funding system is unconstitutional, Overland said, districts should use their energies to find equity in how schools are funded and work to make schools safer. .
“So every time [Central Bucks sends] send an email, make a policy, dedicate an agenda item to one of these divisive cultural issues that serves no purpose other than to tear the district apart, create division, exclude students who are only looking for to understand who they are, they are actively harming not only public education, but their entire communities and our entire Commonwealth.”
School directors come from the school districts of Allentown City, Bethel Park, Bethlehem Area, Central Bucks, Downingtown Area, East Stroudsburg Area, Methacton, Norristown Area, Octorara Area, Owen J Roberts, Perkiomen Valley, Philadelphia, Phoenixville Area, Pittsburgh Public Schools , Pottstown, South Fayette Township, Spring-Ford Area, Stroudsburg Area, Upper Darby, Upper Dublin, Upper Moreland Township, West Chester Area, William Penn, Deanne Moyer Morris and Wissahickon.