KINDERHOOK—Several students, a teacher and a parent spoke out in support of the middle school Pride Club at the Ichabod Crane Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, May 3.
The club, which several of the speakers pointed out is not a mandatory class, meets after school and “offers a safe place for all individuals of all backgrounds and differences,” according to the district website.
The description of the club goes on to say that “our goal, as a club, is to promote and teach tolerance and acceptance throughout the school community and beyond. We also aim to provide a safe, non-judgmental space as a support network for students of all identities in the Ichabod Crane community.” Pride clubs are in many schools in the country and are open to LGBTQ+ students and their allies. There is also a Pride Club in the Ichabod Crane High School.
A few students who spoke mentioned comments made on social media recently about the club. One student, Valeria Espinoza, a senior, quoted what she said was on Facebook saying an adult posted, “You want a club, start it and hold it at your home. Problem solved.” She said the post went on to suggest that this should be something a parent or psychologist should address, not the school.
“It is shocking to believe this comment was made by an adult,” Valeria said at the meeting. She said that every parent should want a supportive community for their children, and pointed out that not all students have support at home or the ability to see a psychologist.
A junior named Grey Elting, who told the board that (they) identify as non-binary and pansexual, pointed out that the LGBTQ+ is the group that needs help now and shutting down the Pride Club will shove people back into the closet.
‘You have our support and thank you again for coming out and speaking tonight.’
–Matthew Nelson, Ichabod Crane School Board president
“Pride club gives kids a place to belong,” they said, and even if Pride Club was removed from the middle school there would still be “100s of kids in the LGBTQ+ community” in the school.
Andrew Mead, a teacher and co-advisor at the high school Pride Club, was “surprised and appalled” at the comments on social media about the Pride Club at the middle school, which he said was started because of the Equity, Inclusivity, and Diversity Initiative in the district. The board passed the policy on the Equity, Inclusivity, and Diversity in March of 2021.
Mr. Mead pointed out that many of the discussions at the club involve issues of bullying and that the club also works to make the school more inclusive and safe, welcoming and accepting. He said he talked to the middle school club adviser and up to 40 students attended the meetings.
Mr. Mead also quoted the district’s mission statement, saying that the district is “dedicated to preparing students to become contributing members of society in an ever-changing world by valuing diversity; providing a safe environment….”
After that he asked how can Pride Club be a bad thing when the school district is looking to provide a school environment that “welcomes all.”
Speakers also mentioned the upcoming school board elections. Though they didn’t name any candidates, a few speakers asked that voters choose a candidate who supports all students in the district.
After everyone from the public spoke, Board President Matthew Nelson said he was making a statement on behalf of the board and the administrators, thanking all students for bravely speaking at the meeting and talked about how important it was for the board to hear from students.
As for the Pride Club he assured students that regardless who sits on the Board of Education the club is not going away “as long as you want or need that club.”
“You have our support and thank you again for coming out and speaking tonight,” Mr. Nelson said.
The club issue came up again at the May 9 Meet the Candidates Night, when school board candidate Meghan Lafferty-Brown said she thought many people were at the candidate event because they had heard that she and fellow board candidate Thomas Driscoll were trying to dismantle Pride Club. She said that was “an assumption” and, that “if it was up to me, I would make sure that every child had a club they could belong to,” especially if there was not a sport or a program in the district that interested them.
Mr. Driscoll talked about his concerns with the school’s Equity, Inclusivity, and Diversity policy. He named both the No Place for Hate Club and Pride Club, saying, “how bad is the school atmosphere” for these clubs to be created to teach “these basic moral values.” He also said that there are dozens of other clubs these students could be participating in and benefiting from “except they have prioritized this.”
Also at the May 3 meeting the Board of Education held a public hearing on the $46.6-million proposed 2022-23 district budget with no comment from the public.
To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email
At ICC, a few words from many candidates
At the Ichabod Crane School District Meet-the-Candidate Night May 9, high school students from the Participatory Government class asked candidates for the school board prepared questions. The event was held in person and streamed on the district’s Youtube page. There is a link to the recording of the event on the district’s website at www.ichabodcrane.org
Candidates on the ballot for the Board of Education are Bill Schneider, Pat Schuler, current School Board President Matthew Nelson, Jim Antalek, Meghan Lafferty-Brown, current School Board Vice President Elizabeth Phillips and Thomas Driscoll. There are three vacancies to be filled. All seats are for three-year terms, commencing July 1 and expiring on June 30, 2025.
Ms. Schuler, a retired Kinderhook resident, could not be at the candidate night due to illness. Her opening and closing statements were read during the event. In her statement she talked about her long career in different parts of education, including lecturing nationally and internationally on issues in education. “I understand the importance of k-12 curricula,” she said in her statement and went on to say that it is important to acknowledge what is working for students and what is not.
Mr. Schneider is a former Ichabod Crane High School principal and his two children graduated from the district. He said he understands how a “board is supposed to work” and talked about his varied background in education, working in several school districts in the area.
Mr. Nelson, who has been on the board since 2016 and has been a board officer since 2018, talked about the successes in the district but also said he would like to see Ichabod become a “premiere school” in the region. He said he is running for reelection because “I want to continue to contribute to the hard work that we’ve undertaken” in the last two years, and “the work we have to continue to do.”
Mr. Antalek talked about volunteering in the schools, which he attended and sent his children to, and his unique skill set of interviewing and hiring early career engineers for GE. “I know what it takes to be a good engineer,” and what it takes to work in the private sector, he said. “I really believe in Ichabod Crane,” he said.
Ms. Lafferty-Brown said she is running for the board because she was asked to run by members of the community. She is an Ichabod graduate with five kids in the district. She said she started “confronting” the board at meetings about a proposal to have school start before Labor Day last year and most recently with concerns about unvaccinated students not being able to participate. in winter sports.
Ms. Phillips is also an Ichabod graduate and has been on the board for a full term and was appointed board vice president this school year. “I’m so proud of the work we’ve done here,” she said. Answering a question from the students, Ms. Phillips talked about exposure to diversity being critical.
Mr. Driscoll pointed people to his and Ms. Lafferty-Brown’s Facebook page “Families for Ichabod.” He talked about supporting the trade programs and his background in armed security and firearm training. He said that if elected to the board he would be a supporter for the “correct treatment of students.”
The annual school budget vote and board member election will be held Tuesday, May 17, from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the High School Gymnasium.—Emilia Teasdale