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Grain Valley students and teachers protest school district order to remove LGBTQ stickers

Jodi Fortino
KCUR 89.3
About 50 students, teachers and parents rallied Friday night in support of LGBTQ students in the Grain Valley School District.

Students, parents, and teachers held pride flags and signs along the street in response to Grain Valley School District's removal of LGBTQ stickers.

About 50 students, teachers and families rallied Friday night to protest the Grain Valley School District’s announcement that it would remove stickers signaling classrooms as “safe spaces” for LGBTQ students.

Senior Mia Powell, student body president at Grain Valley High School, said that the stickers went unseen by kids who didn't need them.

“But for those who did need them, it was absolutely a signal that if they didn't have a space at home where they felt comfortable speaking about identity issues, or if they were being harassed or bullied in school, they knew that there would be someone there to support them,” Powell said.

In an email sent to parents on Monday, the district said it received a complaint about “safe space” stickers being used by some high school teachers.

The district said it directed the administration to remove the stickers and that their goal “is for every classroom to be a safe place for all students, not just in classrooms where teachers choose to display a particular sign."

But after heated pushback from the community, the district announced that it sought to “ensure an inclusive school environment” and would hold listening sessions in the coming weeks.

Jodi Fortino
KCUR 89.3
Senior Mia Powell, student body president at Grain Valley High School, said students need stickers signaling that classrooms are LGBTQ friendly.

Tara Powell said she believed these signs make a difference for students like her daughter, Mia.

“Whenever the kids are hearing these messages of hate in the halls, I think it's important for them to know that look, there is somewhere I can go, maybe if I just need a minute just to compose myself after hearing this stuff, some teacher that's going to be there to go to bat for me,” Powell said.

Steph Kallas, a seventh grade social studies teacher at Grain Valley North Middle School, said she thought the “safe space” stickers weren’t necessarily about letting students know they could confide in teachers.

“I think it's that they know that in that classroom, that I can be who I am, and I don't have to pretend I don't have to hide anything, and I don't have to fake anything,” Kallas said.

Mia Powell said she has a list of requests for the district, which includes taking back the decision to remove the stickers, letting the community know and engage when similar issues are discussed by the school board and requiring the board to undergo diversity training.

Jodi Fortino
KCUR 89.3
Jo Elliot, the grandmother of an LGBTQ child, said she came to demand transparency from the Grain Valley School District.

“We want all students to feel represented, safe, and we think that the school board is not doing a good job of that right now,” Powell said.

Other family members were also concerned about the lack of public input in the discussion.

“I'm hoping that our school board figures out that they need to have transparency, they can't make decisions behind closed doors, not tell anybody who they voted for, who voted for it,” said Jo Elliot, the grandmother of an LGBTQ child in the district.

Advocates said the rally was only the first action taken in response to the district’s decision, and that more would be held in the future.

More than ever, education lies at the intersection of equity, housing, funding, and other diverse issues facing Kansas City’s students, families and teachers. As KCUR’s education reporter, I’ll break down the policies driving these issues in schools and report what’s happening in our region's classrooms. You can reach me at jodifortino@kcur.org.
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