Clash of Color Palettes: LGBTQ Issues Take Over Board Meeting | News, Sports, Jobs

Staff photo by Clay Schuldt Mike Musselman presents the petition asking the school board that individuals declare whether they think it is appropriate to teach sexual orientation to students in kindergarten through grade 3. Josie Ringhofer, president of New Ulm High School’s gay alliance PRISM, watches from the front row.

During the student reports section of the board meeting, PRISM club president Josie Ringhofer, club secretary Ivan Neisen, and school counselor Caitlin Gloege gave a presentation on the formation and mission of the club. .

Ringhofer said the name PRISM was chosen because it represented the band well. The acronym stands for Pride Respect Individuality Support Movement.

The club was formed in two weeks following a school assembly dealing with alleged anti-gay incidents at a New Ulm High School basketball game. After the assembly, two students ask school counselor Gloege to form a gay-straight alliance club.

Gloege said that to broadly address student concerns, an LGBTQ+ roundtable was held the following week. After the roundtable, five students showed up as a group to ask to be leaders of the gay-straight alliance club.

Staff photo by Clay Schuldt Ulm High School’s new gay straight alliance club has been announced. The club is called PRISM and was created at the request of high school students.

The five students, with Gloege as an advisor, worked to solidify the purpose, structure, and brainstorm ideas for the club. A few days later, the New Ulm student leader and councilor met with Principal Mark Bergmann to start the club.

PRISM’s mission statement is: to establish a group that will create a safe and respectful space for LGBTQ students to support each other in New Ulm Public Schools.

PRISM President Josie Ringhofer said the club’s vision was to continue even after student members graduate and to be an inclusive group in decision-making similar to student council.

PRISM would spread a positive message of equality. One goal would be to educate students about LGBTQ challenges and develop realistic solutions to those challenges.

Currently, the group meets every two weeks but could expand to every week of the next school year. Two full school group meetings were held with approximately 45 students in attendance.

Staff photo by Clay Schuldt A copy of the petition submitted to the New Ulm School Board. The petition asks board members to individually indicate whether it is appropriate to teach LGBTQ issues in school.

Board member Melissa Sunderman praised club members for the work they have done and said it would be a real benefit to the school.

At the close of the council meeting, the council received comments from people wishing to discuss sexual orientation and gender identity at school.

Mike Musselman filed a petition before the board asking individual school board members to indicate whether or not they agree with the following:

“Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties about sexual orientation or gender identity is not appropriate from kindergarten through at least Grade 3, and therefore any instruction of this type should be eliminated from these classrooms as soon as possible.”

Musselman said the petitioners believe the council has a moral obligation to publicly disclose its position on this issue.

The language presented in the petition was similar to language included in a recently passed law in Florida, commonly known as the “Don’t say gay bill.”

Others have raised concerns about LGBTQ discussions in schools.

Lafayette resident Paul Platz expressed concern that rainbow-colored Eagle pride buttons were being worn by school staff. He thought the creators of these buttons should include a disclaimer, they are not endorsed by District 88 but are created by members of the community.

Platz clarified that he believed staff had the right to wear the buttons as they fell under free speech protections, but did not want staff discussing LGBTQIA issues with minors.

“It is the parents who have this discussion with their children, not the education system”, said Platz.

Platz voiced support for Florida law that barred discussing sexual orientation with K-3 students, but also wanted the school to consider a policy that would require parents to notify every staff member. of the school talk to any student about any LGBTQIA issues.

Donita Platz also raised concerns about children learning about LGBTQ issues. Platz acknowledged that she had a gay son, but wasn’t going to tell their kindergarten grandchild about his uncle’s sexual orientation because he wasn’t old or mature enough to understand.

“It’s up to his parents to discuss it for him when they feel it’s appropriate and at home,” she says.

Donita Platz also expressed concerns that no one stood up for students who do not accept LGBTQIA beliefs and suggested that a heterosexual club be offered at school.

Donita Platz concluded by assuring the council that while she disagreed with the teaching of gender identity and sexual orientation in school, she was not a “hateful”.

“I can respect everything, but not agree with everything” she says.

Michael Thom spoke in favor of the petition. He defined the need to block LGBTQ discussions at school as protecting children from sexual predators.

Thom wanted the board to formally state its position on teaching LGBTQ issues to allow the public to decide whether to vote for the board in the next election or whether to send their children to other schools.

Mary Thom spoke last. She began by saying that those who spoke on behalf of the petition were not teaching their children to bully.

“They teach their children to be kind to everyone,” she says. “We don’t hate anyone in this room.”

Mary Thom acknowledged that those supporting the petition were trying to weed out anything that contradicts their beliefs and worldview when it comes to educating their own children about sexual matters.

“The desire to leave this matter to the parents is not odious”, said Mary Thom. “It is not a show of ignorance or selfish privilege for parents to want to raise their own children.”

As the petition was not on the agenda, council took no action and gave no response.

The next school board study session will be Thursday, May 12 at 5 p.m. in the District Conference Room, 414 S. Payne Street. The next regular school board meeting will be Thursday, May 26 at 6 p.m. in the District Council Chambers, 414 S. Payne Street.


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