Equity and LGBTQ+ Rights Under Attack in Waukesha Schools

Equity and LGBTQ+ Rights Under Attack in Waukesha Schools

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Alliance for Education in Waukesha started this petition to School District of Waukesha Board of Education and

The School District of Waukesha has turned its back on our diverse student population by dramatically limiting equity conversations and visibility in our schools. They have banned welcoming and inclusive signage and “paused” district equity work perceived as “controversial” and “political.”

In August, School District of Waukesha Superintendent James Sebert and Deputy Superintendent Joseph Koch emailed district employees stating their decision to “pause” district equity work and discontinue diversity-oriented professional development. The district has gone on to mandate additional actions that target our marginalized students:

  • Staff was forced to remove these welcoming and inclusive signs from classrooms ---including the required removal of all Safe Zone/Safe Space symbols and rainbow/pride flags. Below are examples of the signs deemed to be too “controversial” for our classrooms:
    • SAFE ZONE: This space RESPECTS all aspects of people, including race, ethnicity, gender expression, sexual orientation, socio-economic background, age, religion, and ability.”
    • You belong here. You matter. You are worth it. You are important. You are loved. You have a voice. You are valued. You are respected.”
    • This classroom is anti-racist. We see color & value all. We do not tolerate hate. When we make mistakes we say...I’m sorry. I’m listening. I’m learning.”
    • School District of Waukesha, Policy 2260: Nondiscrimination and Access to Equal Education Opportunity (The administration even banned teachers from posting our district’s own non-discrimination policy in colored text!)
  • Administration removed "Proud Member of the Gay-Straight Alliance" signs displayed on members' lockers because they had “rainbow text.” Meanwhile, other lockers signs related to extra-curricular activities were allowed to remain. 
  • Teachers have been directed not to ask students’ pronouns on beginning-of-the-year surveys.

Why is this so important?

Our LGBTQ+ students and students of color have made it clear that they are struggling at school.  According to our Waukesha high school students:

47% of Hispanic students, 45% of other students of color, and 59% of LGBTQ+ students responded they do not feel like they belong at school.
90% of LGBTQ+ students identified having mental health concerns (compared to 53% of straight/cisgender students).
46% of LGBTQ+ students have considered suicide (compared to 13% of straight/cisgender students).
SOURCE: School District of Waukesha High School Youth Risk Behavior Survey 2018-2019

To quote a Waukesha West High School student who spoke at a recent Board of Education meeting, “For me and so many of my friends, those were the signs that showed us that we mattered in school. Because they have been taken down, I feel that I am being targeted as not as important as other students, and I feel like I am being excluded. Not every classroom is a safe space.”

These signage bans and discriminatory restrictions are an overreach and send an alarming message about where the district stands on issues of equity. We call on the School District of Waukesha to rescind these directives and follow policies and procedures that demonstrate a commitment to equity.

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