A member of the Rice Lake school board resigned last week, citing overwhelming anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric at board meetings and a lack of support from school administration.
Abbey Fischer did not take her seat on the board at the Monday, Sept. 12 meeting, but rather read a statement of resignation during public comment.
“I am a lesbian. As such, I can no longer sit quietly through these meetings as I listen to people at this podium and (at the school board table) speak willfully ignorant, inflammatory, hurtful, and harmful rhetoric about the LGBTQIA community,” said Fischer.
LGBTQ+ issues have been a hot button issue recently within the school district.
A policy change is pending that would require parents to be involved if a student wishes to go by another name, different pronouns, or use a different restroom.
Fischer and others have said that students should be allowed to choose their pronouns without their parents being involved. They have said that by requiring parental consent, students are put in a complicated position of choosing between safety at home or comfort in schools.
Fischer also alleged that a LGBTQ+ “Safe Zone” sticker was removed from a staff members door by school administration.
“That sticker had been displayed for well over 10 years without a problem. The sticker is a reaffirmation that all students are safe and welcome in the classroom. By removing the sticker, we are explicitly telling our students and staff that this District is not safe nor supportive,” said Fischer.
Fischer said she resigned in order to preserve her emotional and mental health.
“The anguish I feel while preparing for, attending, and recovering from the meetings takes too many days from my life,” she said.
Just as Fischer said, several people made anti-LGBTQ statements during public comment at the Sept. 12 meeting.
Next to speak after Fischer was Eli Schulz, who opened his remarks by saying, “Transgenderism is a cult,” comparing it to Marxist ideology.
Lana Schulz criticized the school’s health curriculum on gender identity. She also took issue with a middle school art teacher introducing themself with pronouns and asking students what their pronouns were.
Nancy Keeler said teachers have already have enough on their plate to be dealing with transgender education as well.
“Leave things such as religion and sexual identity up to parents,” she said.
Lana Peterson said school staff have the right to address students according to their own beliefs.
“Referring to a biological male as she or her or a biological female as he or him would violate another person’s rights to adhere to their own deeply held beliefs and convictions, be it religious or otherwise that pronouns correspond with a person’s biological sex. It should not be demanded of students and staff to state something with their own mouths that their conscience does not believe,” said Peterson.
She added, “Get back to teaching the basics, not controversial subjects.”
Joshua Carlson said, “There are harmful teachings and ideas that have been infiltrating the school curriculum, such as sexual education, LGBTQ doctrine, critical race theory, etc.”
He advocated for Christian teachings.
“For anyone in the LGBTQ community who is here, there is forgiveness, there is hope and there is peace in Christ Jesus,” said Carlson.
But others spoke more supportively of the LGBTQ community.
“I believe in God, I believe in Jesus. I believe in all of that. But I also know it’s not my job to judge any of that. It’s my job to support and love,” said Julie Bever.
Bever said she and her husband took in foster child who identified as gay and was no longer welcome in a the home of another foster family.
“The foster home he was in was trying to pray the gay out of him,” she said. “They said it wasn’t a good fit
But for those who aren’t good fits, they need someone to love them. They need to feel supported and loved.”
Rice Lake student Armin Kiffmeyer said students should be allowed to choose their pronouns in order to feel safe at school.
“The policy is vital to me and my peers because it protects the safety of my friends, my peers and your students. We shouldn’t be listening to adults from other school districts who don’t even have children in the school system right now. We should be listening to students who actually care about our safety and well-being,” said Kiffmeyer.
Ginny Gelineau said people who aren’t accepted for who they are often become suicidal.
“In our community, there are a lot of gay people,” said Gilineau. “Don’t groom (students) to be something they aren’t.”
Public comment was cut off after 30 minutes in accordance with the school board’s policy. Three people who signed up to speak, but were not given the opportunity will be given priority at the next meeting on Sept. 26.
A protest is being planned at that meeting in support of Fischer.
A call requesting comment from school superintendent Randy Drost was not returned as of press time Tuesday evening.