LGBTQ+ bullying in Mahomet-Seymour CUSD #3 schools needs to be addressed by the adminstration. While LGBTQ+ identities being disenfranchised in schools is not novel, the lack of actions by Mahomet currently is shameful. While this type of bullying and lack of support reminds me of my experiences, it’s unacceptable for those experiences to be perpetuated into present day.
I remember the excitement and work we were doing as high school kids in 2006 — we had just formed the Carbondale Community High School’s first Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA). It had not been an easy road. No teachers were willing to sponsor the club until an English teacher agreed on our second request. But we had done it. The year prior, there had been a Day of Silence at our school, and now we were pushing further to create an environment where we were safe and affirmed. As a new club, we were excited to enter the Homecoming Parade, spending afternoons decorating one of our giant old beater trucks with rainbow signs. Days before the Homecoming Parade, the school speakers sounded, calling all the GSA officers into the principal’s office. We were forbidden from entering the Homecoming Parade. At the time, we swallowed the excuses, but 14 years later, it is apparent what the messaging was. This was not our home, and I at least would not be coming back. The passive discrimination of that administration still echoes today; I graduated and left for the west coast for 10+ years before giving the Midwest another shot with Champaign-Urbana and the University of Illinois.
The schools remain a battle ground for students’ base identities to be accepted and affirmed. In Mahomet High School, students were assaulted, bullied, harassed; in Pekin, IL, students were physically harmed and had Pride flags ripped from them; in Piasa, IL, a student was assaulted for carrying a Pride flag. While these are the reported incidents, anti-LGBTQ+ school climates are rising across the state. Anna-Jonesboro, IL, had a large turnout at the school board meeting on Monday, October 18, 2021 to complain against the legal requirement that trans students have equal and full access to the correct restrooms with circulation of an “Anti-Queer Association” note gaining national coverage. Illinois Safe Schools Alliance has seen an increase in requests for advocacy efforts in response of increased bullying of LGBTQ+ students.
The Mahomet-Seymour school board’s response is incredibly lacking. The board has highlighted the importance of student confidentiality as a leading cause for tightened lips. The LGBTQ+ community understands this issue and is not seeking specific details about individual students. What we are looking for is an educational atmosphere where our queer youth can thrive, learn, and ultimately survive. We are looking for administrators and educators to make marked efforts to improve the climate. The inclusive curriculum bill was passed in 2019, yet here we are concerned for the very safety of our students, let alone their being taught about LGBTQ+ issues and history. It is time for Mahomet-Seymour CUSD #3 to take action to protect our students and improve the educational climate. In 2020, the Trevor Project reported that 52% of LGBTQ+ high school and middle school students reported bullying and LGBTQ+ students were 3 times more likely to attempt suicide. There’s a glimmer of hope in this data, however, as schools that were LGBTQ+ affirming were 30% less likely to have incidents of bullying.
As a community, we want to see action taken at Mahomet and school districts across the state to take meaningful action. Please write to the school board, the superintendent, and the Mahomet-Seymour High School principal. I have included a form letter here if you would like a template, and the full school board is listed here.
Nathan Alexander is a member of the LGBT Resource Center Advisory Committee
a LGBT Resource Center Continuum of Service Providers to the Homeless representative.