This story was originally printed in the Sept. 22 issue of the Community Voice. For your own subscription, call 270-384-9454.
Kimmy O’Brien, a Spanish teacher at Adair County High School, spoke at the school’s site-based decision-making council meeting last Thursday concerning the possibility of a Gender and Sexualities Alliances club at the school. O’Brien said she offered to sponsor the club if a group was established.
“I want to start by saying I love our community and I adore our school and the staff I work with, but at the center of this are the students,” O’Brien said. “My passion extends far beyond teaching Spanish, and as a teacher I hope to help foster an environment where every single student has the tools they need to reach their full potential in being the best version of themselves inside and outside of the classroom.”
O’Brien said she offered to sponsor the club because students have expressed interest in forming a group.
“With that being said, I can assure everyone it was never my intention to cause any controversy or division within our community, but rather bring together a support system for our most vulnerable and marginalized students, which are our LGBTQ+ youth,” she said.
Most of the approximately 35 people in attendance at the meeting voiced concerns that the club would promote a homosexual direction and students could fall under peer pressure to join. They also questioned the role of the faculty member sponsoring the club.
A proposal by a faculty member to sponsor the club was first announced at last month’s council meeting, which also drew a large crowd in opposition. The council moved to look at revisions for the school’s extracurricular programs policy at the August meeting. O’Brien announced her involvement last week.
The council revised its policy to add specific criteria for allowing a new club, adding that at least five students must request an organization before it can be formed. It also gives clear direction for students to request a new program.
Program requests that meet the criteria will be approved by the principal, who will notify the council at the next regular meeting. The program may begin functioning once the principal has given approval. Revisions to the curriculum were passed unanimously.
O’Brien said students need an avenue of support, something she says they ’re telling her they don’t get at home. “Over the last four years, I have had over 23 students come to me, unsolicited, to seek support in their understanding of their LGBTQ+ identity,” O’Brien said. “Students have regarded my room and myself as a safe place. Students have sought me out for many reasons, but one common denominator is my open support.”
O’Brien said if students don’t feel safe, it will be difficult for them to learn. She believes a GSA Club is an absolute necessity.
A total of 21 people spoke at the meeting, most were against the club.
Principal Chad Parnell said if students move forward with a request for the club, they will be provided the policy and steps needed to form a group.
By Scott Wilson