Discrimination, But Not the Kind That Comes to Mind

Alex Cornell

The population of LGBTQ+ community members at SPASH is consistently growing, and SPASH is not doing a good job of keeping up. In recent years, there has been a growing number of LGBTQ+ students at SPASH. But in doing extensive research, there is nothing to be found about the existence of the community other than the very first page of the handbook. Besides the GSA club, there is nothing representing the students here, and most people would agree. SPASH needs to recognize the fact that they cannot keep pretending they are a great school, when they practically don’t even acknowledge an entire community that exists here. 

The LGBTQ+ community deserves more acknowledgement than a “no discrimination” policy in the handbook, and in general. The handbook states “The Stevens Point Area Public School District shall not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, ancestry, creed, religion, pregnancy, marital or parental status, sexual orientation, handicap or physical, mental, emotional or learning disability or any other characteristic protected by federal, state or local law in the educational programs or activities which it operates or in employment practices.” This quote does not mention gender of any sort, although it is implied to be included due to the wording at the end of the statement. And it seems that the only semblance of protection the community gets from this is the “sexual orientation” statement. 

But what could be the reason for such little representation in the school district? Interviewees have given their ideas, and the general consensus is that Stevens Point and Plover have very traditional ideas, and SPASH doesn’t want to be caught in a controversy. Ashtyn Zimmerman, a SPASH senior, talked about how the community’s apparent political views have a negative effect on school district policies. “A lot of people are openly republican, so I think it makes people uncomfortable, so I think that the school just doesn’t want to start a fight.” Nora McGuire, a junior, seemed to have the perspective that there is little representation for everything that isn’t sports. “I guess there’s like, very little representation in everything. It’s a school, so the most representation something gets is sports.”

People’s identities should not be regarded as a “political belief”, and should not be used as a part of a party’s platform. This issue started becoming apparent when Supreme Court case Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission came about, when a bakery refused to bake a wedding cake for a homosexual couple due to the owner’s religious beliefs. The arguments then flared up again when gay marriage was legalized in all 50 states. It brought about a controversy in the school, when the community began to express themselves and those who were “opposed” brought politics into it. Social studies teacher Mr. Cibaric said “I don’t consider rights as a political belief, I consider them to be human needs. With the controversy last year, I think it came up so fast, the allies didn’t have time to alleviate the negative pushback.” Mr. Cibaric has also commented on the fact that there are more open allies here at SPASH than there has been in the past few years. 

Madame Clabots mentioned that Mr. Vollendorf had used the political wording last year because of the flags that were being used. “It’s not a political belief, sometimes those who tend to be pro gender, and sexual idenity, tend to be democratic. I can’t speak for Vollendorf, but perhaps because the other side was using Trump flags, he used the political wording.” Madame Clabots goes on to say how the protests were not about politics, but about the distraction they became. She finishes with stating how the community is not a political belief, but rather part of someone’s identity. But the issue is that the community did not start the fight. They were exercising their right to be themselves, and the “other side” were the ones who turned it into a controversy. 

SPASH should be made a safer place than it is right now, because currently, it is not a good place to be open. There are students here at SPASH who do not currently have a safe place where they can be open about themselves. “I do think SPASH could be a lot safer for students who don’t fit into heteronormative standards. If there were more repercussions for the instances of intolerance, I find that a lot of students get a slap on the wrist, for being intolerant of other students’ sexual and gender identities. We also need better education for both teachers and students about what sexual identity and gender identity are. And the importance of some students.” Madame Clabots mentioned that there are not repercussions to those who are intolerant, and it is something that need to be changed. “One of the things lacking in the district is elementary school counselors. They help to teach people social/emotional learning in the classroom on a day to day basis. If we had more that followed the national curriculum, it would go a long way to help accept people in high school, to help learn to be accepting of people in high school.” Mr. Cibaric stated that since there is a lack of school counselors, there is more hatred and intolerance than there needs to be. 

Despite all of the facts and evidence that SPASH has some issues it needs to sort out, there is a growing number of open allies in the staff and in the student body, and there has been more representation than there has been in past years. Mr. Cibaric stated that there are more open allies this year than there has been in the past. “I believe the representation of the community has improved over the past 4-5 years. Prior to that, it wasn’t really visible/functional/well received.” But there is still a lot of work to be done. “I think the only real representation is through the GSA club, but i don’t see any sort of posters, welcoming signage to any sort of things other than heteronormative relationships.” Madame Clabots mentioned again how there is a big lack of representation for the community here. People cannot just ignore the existence of the community forever, and the sooner they realize that they are not going to go away, the better it will be for everyone. The world is moving forward and SPASH, and the entire school district, needs to go with it.