There were going to be no more wars, and discrimination would no longer occur. Our world would be one of tolerance and peace. And individuals’ civil rights would be assured and protected. That was the dream of those of us who were raised during the late ’50s and ’60s.
We witnessed the assassination of Martin Luther King and were taught about injustice and inequality and how it would lead to discrimination and social unrest. Most of us learned about these issues in the classrooms of our high schools. I was a student and fellow classmate of many of the individuals who currently sit as elected officials on the Richland School District Board of Education.
I was disheartened by the board’s recent decision not to allow a student to pursue election to what he felt was a gender-appropriate position, particularly when the school officials and students have recognized and affirmed his gender preferences in the past.
It is easy to talk about equality and not as easy to practice and support it. I am sure the school board weighed the potential ramifications of its decision before making one.
However, what I think the board members are missing is that it is their duty to assure that their students are prepared to function in society once they leave their school.
We are a society that is evolving into a gender neutral place. The question the board members need to deal with is: Are they preparing their students for this evolution or are they choosing to maintain the status quo?
I am hopeful that saying they are “taking issues under advisement” is not a bureaucratic way of saying they are putting this off and hoping the issue goes away. It will not.
I was educated in a system that encouraged independent thought, was progressive and challenged its students to succeed to their highest level while protecting the civil rights of others.
We were encouraged to be empathic and to stand up and express ourselves when we felt change needed to occur. I can only wonder, if this were the ’50s and the Richland school board and administrative staff had to address the issue of separate but equal facilities based on race, how would they respond?
Maybe it’s time for the students to address with administration how they feel gender neutrality should be addressed in their schools. After all, the faculty, administration and board are indirectly their employees. Caps and gowns at graduation that are all the colors of the rainbow would be more of a reflection of current societal evolution. We can be a positive part of this evolutionary process or not.
Lou Ann (Schrock) Gray of Richland Township is a Richland alumna. She holds a master’s degree in counselor education and is a civil rights mediator.