Resume the Work of the Sexual Health Committee
Resume the Work of the Sexual Health Committee
Why this petition matters
Dear Dr. Ledoux,
As members of the Kodiak Island Borough, we are writing to express our dismay about the KIBSD’s recent decision to delay the work of the sexual health committee.
In your letter to our community, dated 1/24/22, you cited concerns about the sexual health committee's ability to engage in sensitive discussions remotely as your reason for delaying this curriculum review. We feel this attitude ignores the fact that some members of the committee are a part of the LGBTQ+ community while other members are very much opposed to it. Virtual meetings provide a safe distance and equal footing for participating in the discussion. The chat feature allows participants to communicate even if speaking is difficult. The ability to turn the camera on and off as needed lessens the sense of physical intimidation. Overall power imbalances are lessened. A sense of safety is critical to everyone’s ability to participate in the discussion. It seems that recent events and activism on part of the Kodiak Freedom Alliance have likely influenced the decision to delay the curriculum review. It is disheartening that instead of addressing misinformation in our community, our school district has made the decision to give in to intimidation. Respect is built by promoting opportunities to engage the community in dialogue, and the recent actions have deprived us of that opportunity.
Our school district and its leaders have an ethical obligation to foster school climates free from harassment and discrimination in which all students feel safe and welcome. Among some of the most marginalized students are LGBTQ+ youth who experience bullying and harassment at disproportionately high levels (1). This places them at a higher risk for academic disengagement and negative mental health outcomes such as depression and suicidal behaviors (2). Kodiak is not free from this intolerance, a fact evidenced by a recent event at Kodiak High School. Administrators became aware of an Instagram page “GayPeopleInKHS” dedicated to ostracizing and terrorizing members of our LGBTQ+ community. While efforts were made to engage law enforcement and take the page down, our leaders need to take proactive steps to prevent such incidences. One of the most meaningful ways we can address these concerns is through an inclusive sexual health curriculum that contains accurate information about sexuality, gender, and LGBTQ+ people (3). Putting a “pause” on the development of this curriculum and withholding critical health information from young people is a violation of their rights and places marginalized students in harm's way.
During this time when books on LGBTQ+ related subjects are being pulled from school and public library shelves in Anchorage (4,5) and across the country (6, 7), vitriol and a lack of understanding about these issues grows due to rampant misinformation. It’s essential that young members of the LGBTQ+ community feel welcome in their own schools and have access to compassionate and accurate health information. A comprehensive education regarding the medical needs and health of LGBTQ+ people not only benefits the Kodiak community but the health and safety of everyone. A more expansive understanding of sexuality and gender saves lives across the board.
Aside from the adoption of inclusive-curriculum, research has identified three additional strategies for promoting school safety for all students, including LGBTQ+ students. These evidence-based strategies include: clearly defined anti-bullying policies; professional development on LGBTQ+ issues; and student-led clubs such as Gender-Sexuality Alliances (2). We urge our school leaders to take meaningful steps towards improving response to incidents involving harassment; provide teachers with the tools to address harassment and their students’ questions regarding sexuality and gender expression, and expand our Gender-Sexuality Alliance club to the middle school community. While the school district may not be “in a rush” to address these issues, postponing these improvements and staying silent communicates to our students that their well-being is not a priority and only further alienates them.
In support of our students, we make the following requests:
● Present this letter to the Board of Education on 2/21/22.
● Support the continued development of a curriculum that includes accurate information about sexual health.
● If the Superintendent continues to delay the work of this subcommittee, please inform the community of when this work will be continued and what evidence-based practices will be adopted to protect our LGBTQ+ youth in the meantime.
Taking these steps will ensure that our students feel supported and safe while at school.
Thank you for your consideration.
(1) https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED574775.pdf (2) https://doi.org/10.1177/23727322211031938
(6) https://abcnews.go.com/US/dont-gay-bill-moves-forward-florida/story?id=82481565&scrlybrkr=d10754857 (7)https://www.npr.org/2021/11/13/1055524205/more-republican-leaders-try-to-ban-books-on-race-lgbtq-issues