Editor’s Note: The authors of this open letter to the Central Bucks School Board collected more than 800 signatures of support for its contents from other alumni, as well as about two dozen current students.
As proud alumni of the Central Bucks School District, we are horrified by the discriminatory and dangerous policies that you and some school administrators have implemented or allowed to happen in the district over the past year.
Our schools must be a welcoming and nurturing environment for all students. Schools should also be a marketplace of ideas that challenge students to grow and flourish their intellect. But your recent actions dramatically undermine both of these goals.
Reports of a persistent hostile environment for LGBQ&T and other vulnerable students were rife in schools across the district for years. Students, particularly trans students, complained of regular bullying by fellow students. Instead of resolving these conflicts or disciplining those responsible for the bullying, targeted students were often told by the adults charged with protecting them that they simply needed to figure out how to cope with the bullying on their own. One teacher was even placed on administrative leave after sharing with a student information about a government agency that could address the discrimination that the student faced in school.
Some schools in the district, with the apparent blessing of some of your members, implemented a “gender identification procedure” that mandated teachers call students by the name listed in a database administered by the school. The only way to prevent a trans student from being dead-named by their teacher under the policy would be to have the student’s parent approve an official name change in the database. This forces closeted students to come out to their parents just so that they can be called by their chosen name in the classroom.
Last year, when a nonbinary student asked to attend a sex education class that didn’t conform to their birth gender, your members canceled sex education classes across the district rather than accommodating the student.
Two months later, you approved the strictest library book ban in the state, allowing a small handful of parents to challenge and remove from district libraries any book that they found objectionable. While the book ban foremost targeted LGBQ&T themed books, any book could be potentially challenged by a disgruntled parent or school board member. These authors and themes open students to a wide array of views — some that have historically been marginalized in our country — and benefit their education.
Most recently, you passed Policy 321. Policy 321 bans teachers from discussing “partisan, political, or social policy matters'' in schools and from displaying any symbols that might be considered political, including pride flags. This policy puts a significant chill on serious classroom discussion of current and historical events, and banning pride flags continues to accelerate the hostile culture towards LGBQ&T students across the district.
To defend these clearly discriminatory policies, you have spent more than $100,000 of taxpayer money to hire a law firm headed by a former candidate for governor who criticized the mere existence of a middle school GSA (gay-straight alliance) during his campaign.
As CBSD alumni, we are shocked and saddened by these developments in Central Bucks. A few board members should not be imposing their political views on thousands of students and teachers by telling them what they can and can’t read or talk about in class.
This goes against the very spirit of what a meaningful education can and should be.
Students in Central Bucks should have a school board that supports the right of students to learn in a healthy, welcoming, and intellectually challenging environment. They deserve nothing less.
Rotimi Adeoye and Christina Maida are members of Central Bucks’ classes of 2014 and 2010, respectively. Their guest opinion was co-signed by more than 800 alumni and forwarded to the Central Bucks School District on Wednesday March 8.