East Aurora School District Announces New Committee to Address All-Inclusive Anti-Bullying Policies

The East Aurora School District that, under pressure from the Illinois Family Institute (IFI), both granted then rescinded protections for transgender students within the span of five days, today, announced that it will form a new committee to implement new anti-bullying and discrimination policies, citing a victory for LGBT and safe school advocates.

This morning,  WBEZ91.5 reported that the new committee will have its first meeting on November 8, saying:

The formation of the committee comes in the wake of a controversy in which the school board passed and then rescinded a policy on transgender students in just five days’ time, and one key administrator was placed on leave for her part in developing the initial policy.

District spokesman Clayton Muhammad said Monday that the committee will be selected by board members and administrators, but meetings will be open to the public. He said the new committee will develop an “all-inclusive” anti-discrimination policy for students, but will not necessarily address issues specific to transgender students.

Ever since news regarding the school board’s decision broke two weeks ago, LGBT advocates have been vocal in criticizing the board for caving to pressure from the IFI, which is associated with the AFA and has been designated a hate group by the SPLC.

(East Aurora School Board, image via ThinkProgress)

Equality Illinois, the statewide LGBT advocacy group, issued a strong statement condemning the move by the school board saying:

“Equality Illinois believes the need to expose the Illinois Family Institute and its national affiliate the American Family Association is gravely important,” said Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois, the statewide LGBT advocacy group. “The American Family Association’s and the Illinois Family Institute’s comparison of LGBT people to Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan is a desperate attempt to make their point and further demean and marginalize our children” Cherkasov said.

Abbe Land, Executive Director and CEO of The Trevor Project also said in a statement that rescinding the protections "would send a hurtful, stigmatizing message to all students, inflicting humiliation and empowering bullying. This is not the message we should be sending to our young people.

And when the local media failed to properly identify the IFI’s influence on the school board’s decision, GLAAD amplified the voices of local LGBT groups and stepped in to make the local media to aware of the harmful and derogatory things leaders of the IFI and the AFA have said about the our families and children.

IFI spokesperson Laurie Higgins has called being gay “evil,” has compared it to incest, and has said that supporting LGBT Pride is “implicitly … embrac[ing] heresy.”

AFA spokesman Bryan Fischer is even more extreme, having claimed: "Homosexuality gave us Adolf Hitler, and homosexuals in the military gave us the Brown Shirts, the Nazi war machine and six million dead Jews." Fischer also says that gay people are the single greatest modern threat to freedom of religion and conscience.”

This context is crucial to this discussion, and Chicago’s media completely failed to deliver it to its audience. Anyone who had not come into contact with the IFI before this story would have no idea that they were an extreme anti-LGBT organization that has been labeled a hate group, believes being gay is the same as incest, and is affiliated with an organization that believes the Nazis were gay.

While there was some confusion on including the fact that “the transgender policy” mostly focused on the responsibilities of teachers and administrators to accommodate and protect students who are out as transgender at school by allowing them to participate in school activities under their preferred name and gender, “ according to WBEZ, safe school advocates and parents agree that safety is the number one concern. 

GLAAD commends all the safe school advocates who worked to ensure that all students have the opportunity to go to school and learn in an environment free from bullying and harassment.