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The board rescinds proclamation coming from reported anti-LGBTQ group, adopts new one

The school board had originally planned to meet on Thursday, Nov. 21 to discuss the status of the district's application for Student Success Act funds, but the uproar at the previous meeting over the board adopting a proclamation coming from an apparent anti-LGBTQ group forced the issue onto the meeting's agenda.

At the top of the meeting, board member Ralph Gierke introduced a set of two new resolutions—the first rescinding the previous proclamation effective immediately and the second acknowledging parent partnership and promoting nondiscrimination.

"I'm the first to admit, I screwed up," Gierke said of voting to approve the previous proclamation. "And I'm not afraid to say I was wrong. But I'm not going to sit around and not do something about it. It's that simple. The kids around here are too doggone important."

The board then voted unanimously to approve the new resolutions. The crowd cheered and applauded. The new resolutions can be found online here.

But the night didn't go by without comments from the public. In fact, it wasn't until 26 comments and two hours later that the Student Success Act was discussed.

Several thanked the board for rescinding the proclamation and coming up with something new.

Many also spoke about the LGBTQ community—either offering steadfast support or rebuke.

"This new world order is seeking utopia where everybody's gonna love one another, everybody's gonna get along, and we're going to accept these LGBT people as equal rights," said public commenter Herman Bauer. "…This resistance I'm a part of, I'm not going for this new world order. I'm not going for this diversity, this false love."

Yet another commenter, Ron Miller, suggested sexual identity is determined at birth and the idea of changing gender is "ridiculous."

Elva Miller alluded to the idea that LGBTQ persons are following "the lie," which leads to families falling apart, depression and suicide.

"They know in their spirit that it's not working the way God made me," Miller said.

But these comments were balanced by a plethora of statements defending the LGBTQ community.

Molalla High School art teacher and runner-up for Oregon Teacher of the Year, Alissa Tran, spoke assertively to the board in defense of teachers and the LGBTQ community.

"As school board members, you must work to respect the dignity of all students and families in our community," Tran said. "You might not like it, but there are LGBTQ students and families in every school in our district. You represent them too, and you must serve them with the same fidelity as the other groups, not just the people who look like, think like, speak like, worship like or love like you."

Some former Molalla teachers and students offered bold and heartfelt statements to add to the support for the LGBTQ community.

"I naively thought that the worst thing I'd ever done to my students was to make them diagram sentences," said Mary Fox, a former teacher at Clarkes Elementary. "That was until I realized I was on the end of a community-wide prayer chain. Even then, I thought every teacher needs all the prayers they can get. Unfortunately, even though I was deep in the closet, the rumors that took the place of the prayers eventually were poisonous, toxic and continued regardless of my devotion to my job and my students. The goal of these anonymous parents over the months and the year was to have me fired.

"This group had the same roots and beliefs as the Parents Rights in Education group," Fox continued. "So, when I read the article in The Pioneer, I wanted to add my voice of support to the staff and the students who are promoting respect and dignity for everyone in this school district."

She added, "I just want you to know that I am proud to be a teacher and proud to be gay."

Former Molalla High School English teacher Deb Johnston gave her two cents as well, noting a presentation from an anti-LGBTQ group devastated her during her time teaching.

"I want to apologize to my Molalla students, gay and straight," she said. "If I had had the courage to come out, hopefully I could have been an example, a confidante, a safe adult for those kids who felt they had nowhere to go. All young people need to feel safe and seen…Today's kids face all kinds of pressures; being bullied and isolated for being LGBTQ shouldn't be one of those pressures."

A former student, Warren Parker III, who started the first gay-straight alliance at Molalla High School, said he was encouraged by "the support of the community here for my community," and thanked the board for reconsidering the first proclamation.

"I think you're making the right decision to move away from any group that is associating with anti-LGBTQ sentiment," Parker said. "I would agree with others that I think it's also important to affirm these students and say that we don't associate with groups like that and that that is why we chose to go in a different path."

Other commenters and several board members suggested removing Linda Eskridge as board chair in light of her bringing the first proclamation to the board and her comments at the previous board meeting. The board decided to discuss and vote on a potential change at their next board meeting on Dec. 12.

Kristen Wohlers
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