You probably caught wind the Conway school board banned books, harmed trans kids and embarrassed educators earlier this week. Their board of education approved —unanimously — a harmful bathroom ban that directly affects trans kids. They also tossed two books from their library that feature transgender youth. The Times points out the board went against a committee’s recommendation to let the library books remain.
As for the embarrass-an-educator portion of the board’s meeting, here’s what went down:
“Board member Dr. David Naylor Jr. had an educator… read a passage about sexual abuse from one of the books, “Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out,” aloud before an auditorium full of spectators. Naylor did so knowing full well that she would encounter the word ‘dick’ and told her she could say ‘d’ instead if she wished. To her credit, she chose to read the text as it was. I suspect the soft-spoken educator knew as well as Naylor does that youngsters have known and likely used the word ‘dick’ and far worse for years… Naylor could have read the passages aloud himself but, of course, didn’t.”Via Debra Hale-Shelton of the Arkansas Times
Members of the public who chose to speak in favor of the harmful policies made the bad evening worse. One man read aloud from the Bible, quoting a passage that says LGBTQ people’s actions make them “worthy of death.” You can read Conway resident Julee Jaeger’s Twitter thread of the meeting here.
There were, however, LGBTQ affirming speakers who made their voices heard; but the Conway school board’s hateful and ignorant actions, combined with devastating public comments against trans kids, left our state reeling. So long as voters remain naive to the impact of school board races, what happened in Conway will happen in school districts across Arkansas. Bentonville school board, for example, has five seats up for grabs; a cohort of extremist right-wing candidates are running together to implement policies like the Conway board passed. Policies that support ignorance and even hate towards our most vulnerable youth could very well become the norm in our schools.
Elections have consequences, especially at the local level, especially in our school districts. Be an informed school board voter when you go to the polls. The dignity and safety or our kids literally depends on it.