Updated: Jan 17
Multiple members of Students Protecting Education spoke Tuesday evening voicing their support for the Gender Identity Policy that affirms LGBTQ+ students at school.
"This is not healthy for our community, and it is not healthy for our kids who had to spend time on a Tuesday night to come out just to ask for love and acceptance" - Dave Lillick, Superintendent, OPCSD
Students strike again
After Students Protecting Education was informed of the brewing controversy with the Gender Equality Policy, passed at last month's Orchard Park Board of Education Meeting, we immediately went into action. As soon as we heard about the efforts by the so called "Orchard Park Tax Payers Association" to get a "reversal" of this policy by protesting around town with petitions and signs in car windows, we started our own petition.
The petition stated "By signing, you stand behind the board, its decision on [policy #7552], and its policy making process. Political extremists are attempting to urge the board to overturn and remove the new gender policy (#7552) brought into effect at the December Orchard Park Board of Education (BOE) meeting that ensures LGBTQ+ and Transgender students a safe learning environment at school."
After just 3 days, the petition published by Students Protecting Education had gained over 625 signatures from Orchard Park students, parents, teachers, and community members. This was very clear sign of Orchard Parks support for this policy as the reversal petition had only a meek 85 signatures at this time.
On Tuesday, Executive Director of Students Protecting Education, Luke Lippitt, presented this petition to the Board. He also introduced his organization and his members present. As he introduced them, a large bloc of students stood in support of the organization and the policy. Then, they spoke.
Co-founder Jillian Yarnes expressed the importance of diversity in the community, "Diversity is something very little in this school district, yet very important. And Diversity will be supported with this policy rather than discouraged." She also stressed the importance of a school being a safe space for LGBTQ+ teens to escape from a harsh home life.
SPE Member Salem Ben Abdallah kept his message short and sweet and expressed how grateful the organization was for the hard work and dedication of the board. "On behalf of our entire organization, we appreciate you and realize the time and effort that goes into your positions. Thank you for your hard work and dedication to the Orchard Park Central School District and for taking into account what students like me have to say about our education."
At the end of the meeting, Superintendent Dave Lillick complimented the group of students for their courage and leadership. "Know that you are loved in Orchard Park. Part of my heart hurts that you feel like you have to be here... We are failing as a community if students feel like they have to come out on a Tuesday night to speak up for their safety and wellbeing."
This was a huge victory for students across the country. It was also a win for the students of Orchard Park, as the Superintendent also reiterated his support for maintaining the policy. On Tuesday, students beat extremist groups working to slowly strip rights away. And we'd do it again! Students Protecting Education continues to grow larger and larger, with more opportunity to promote diversity and equity in our schools every. single. day.
Students Protecting Education would like to give one more thanks to the Orchard Park Board of Education and the District for their dedication towards our educational excellence and dedication towards working with us to understand our voices an opinions. We greatly appreciate you!