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Kansas City LGBTQ commissioners say rise in discrimination at schools is an 'emergency'

Rainbow flag blowing in a backyard.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
The City of Independence joined four other metro cites to ban conversion therapy for LGBTQ youth.

One member of the commission says schools need to better educate their teachers about what opinions and topics are appropriate for the classroom.

Kansas City’s LGBTQ commission will meet with community members Monday following several reports of anti-LGBTQ incidents at area schools over the last few months.

Commissioners hope to use the space to talk about the events and craft a response to local school districts. The meeting will take place at 7 p.m. over Zoom.

Advocates say they have seen multiple reports of discriminatory events across the region, at schools in Lee Summit, Olathe and Independence. The latest happened at Lincoln College Preparatory Academy last week, where a teacher was placed on leave following discriminatory remarks towards Muslims and the LGBTQ community.

KCTV-5 reported a10th grade English teacher began preaching Christianity during a class unprompted, and when students tried to debate with him he allegedly made Islamophobic and homophobic comments. Students from the class reported the incident to school administration. In an email, LCPA HS Principal Kristian Foster notified parents of children in the class of the incident.

“Please know that these comments are being investigated and reviewed,” said Foster. “Both LCPA and KCPS are committed to a school environment that is safe and welcoming for everyone, including honoring separation of church and state within our school community.”

Justin Short, LGBTQ commissioner for the 4th district, said that recently there have been too many discriminatory events in local schools for the commission to ignore. He added that there’s a time and place for teachers' opinions, and school is not that place.

“Our school districts need to understand and need to educate their teachers and uplift their teachers to be trained appropriately,” said Short, who is running for city council. “I understand and emphasize that people have a wide array of thoughts and feelings about different situations, but the classroom is not an avenue for those thoughts and feelings.”

At the meeting Monday, the Kansas City LGBTQ commission plans to engage community members and advocates in conversations about the recent incidents at local schools, and to call them to action to stand up for students in LGBTQ community.

Short said that he thinks the various issues of discrimination against LGBTQ students as well as instances involving racism in local schools are related, and that both issues need to be addressed.

“All of our students, the young people of our city need to be uplifted,” said Short. “This is now an issue and it's an issue that we've seen several instances of over the past two months. And it's something that we need to address. A lot of school districts have a lot of diversity and inclusion practices. We are not meaning to discount any of those, but out of this meeting specifically, we want school districts to address this not only with their staff, but with their students.”

According to Short, the commission plans to have a memorandum drafted by the end of the meeting Monday to be distributed among regional school districts that calls attention to the seemingly rising anti-LGBTQ incidents.

Bek Shackelford-Nwanganga reports on health disparities in access and health outcomes in both rural and urban areas.
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