Letters to the Editor

Letter to the Editor | Inappropriate and unkind comments at school board meeting

Posted on April 29th, 2024 By: Aria Messer

It seems the only way ongoing forward momentum is made in the Peninsula School District regarding DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion) and HIB (Harassment, Intimidation, Bullying), is to have the news publish an article about it. Thank you for your coverage in February. Since attending school board meetings from the beginning of the school year, I had not seen action from the board in response to my (and others’) requests to do something about the epidemic of hate speech, homophobia, transphobia, and racism, until that article was written.

In the most recent school board meeting, which is available for viewing on the Peninsula School District’s YouTube channel, two elderly public comment speakers and one school board member took us right back to where we started. One speaker said they were tired of hearing about DEI “ad nauseam” and proceeded to quote Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in such a way that was exactly the opposite of what they were speaking about. Another used such blatantly hostile language regarding our transgender and LGBTQ+ community that it was equivalent to using a microphone to shout racist comments for all to hear. Several parents had to leave the room after hearing this vitriol, which was inaccurate, inappropriate, and unkind! It was clear both people were not only out of touch with the reality of the youth today, but also highly uninformed.

Thankfully, a young voice of reason, Ms. Camri Clawson, shared from the perspective of AN ACTUAL STUDENT regarding inclusivity and love.

Later in the meeting, David Olsen, also running for state superintendent in the coming election, denied that the results from a student survey about “belonging” were accurate. He questioned, inappropriately, the two high school students in attendance, asking if they lied on the surveys. Why? Because the survey reflected the voices of students saying they DO NOT feel a sense of belonging in our district. Instead of taking the results and doing something about it, he negates the voices in the survey by implying they had a bad day, or they are “making it up.”

Is it any wonder that our district is not helping “every child, every day” as their tagline implies? The aforementioned board member doesn’t even believe what the students and their parents are saying when we come to them with real examples of what is taking place and how it negatively impacts a student’s sense of belonging.

I’m so tired of being invalidated by current school board members. I’m so tired of worrying about my kids in our district due to the discriminatory mindset of many on the board. I’m so tired of hearing stories of kids who face harassment, intimidation, and bullying regularly because they are viewed as “other” in our seemingly conservative town.

In case it is unclear to the residents of Gig Harbor and those within the boundaries of the Peninsula School District: Racism and homophobia (and ANY other form of hate and exclusion) are NOT acceptable. Human beings – ALL of them – deserve to exist and be treated with equity. You may not agree with how other people choose to live their lives, and that’s okay. What is NOT okay is to publicly campaign against their right to EXIST and ignore the way they are being unfairly treated.

I ask those who are also frustrated with what is happening with our students in this district to please act. There are several of us who go to every board meeting in the hopes that our attendance will make a difference. Those of us who attend have spoken repeatedly. We would love for you to add your voice and stand with us to petition for effective and lasting change so that ALL our students are safe, included, and treated with respect every day.

Wouldn’t it be great if “every child, every day” truly felt all those things so they could focus on their education without the added burden of worrying about their emotional well-being while at school? I wonder how much better our test scores and belonging survey outcomes would be if the school board took seriously what we are asking of them.

Aria Messer

Parent of PSD students

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