My name is Sean Leeds and I grew up in the Erie Community Unit School District in Erie, IL. Perhaps one day my children will go to school in Erie as well, except the Superintendent and School Board recently made it clear that my non-traditional family may not be accepted there.
At last month’s school board meeting, the district decided it would ban elementary school resources that teach respect for all families and address the anti-gay name-calling that has been documented in Erie schools.
The ban includes The Family Book by Todd Parr and anything associated with the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), including the proven bullying prevention program No Name-Calling Week (endorsed by over 50 national education and youth organizations such as Big Brothers Big Sisters of America) and Ready, Set, Respect, lesson plans created in partnership with the National Association of Elementary School Principals and the National Association for the Education of Young Children.
These well-respected, age-appropriate, and effective resources are used in thousands of schools across the country. The GLSEN material was given unanimous support and The Family Book was given majority support from a district-appointed committee of parents, educators and community members.
There has been an outcry of support for all of the banned materials, with over 100 Erie parents signing a petition to call for the reversal of the ban. But the superintendent, who refers to LGBT families as an “alternative lifestyle,” and the school board president, who has publicly stated he would like to see the bible taught in public schools, refuse to reconsider their decision.
Tell the Erie, IL school district that they should value the health and safety of their students over the extreme personal views of a handful of people. No child is too young to learn how anti-gay language is hurtful to people in their community.
As more people speak out against the banned materials, I hope that the leaders of the Erie Community School District will affirm the value of all the families and students in their community. If they do, maybe one day my children (and their two dads) might feel like we are a welcomed part of Erie schools.