My son attended Beye School from kindergarten through sixth grade. He currently is in college and now fully appreciates the exceptional teachers and educational opportunities he had in Oak Park. He has two mothers. In all our years at Beye, that fact was never an issue – not for anyone at anytime.
Well, there once was a first grader who asked me why he didn’t have a father. I remember trying to formulate an answer that would be consistent with whatever her parents would want her to understand at that age, but still respectful of whom we were as a family. Beye was a very special place. I will always be grateful for the welcoming, inclusive sense of community we experienced there – and then wonder why I feel so grateful for something that should be a given.
I am deeply saddened by recent events at Beye. I have paused to reflect and sit with my own reactions prior to composing this letter. First, a few facts. The training provided by staff from the Illinois Safe Schools Network was about many different types of families – children who are adopted, raised by single parents or grandparents, not solely about gay parents and their children. Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports is not a program.
It is a process and a structure for using data to make decisions about responses to problematic behaviors in schools. So in this case, bringing in training as a response to incidents of bullying is a most appropriate use of PBIS. Sexual orientation and gender identity are the second-most common reason students experience bullying. Every school in Illinois is required to have a policy on bullying and teach prevention of bullying behavior.
As a community, we have been challenged to consider the meaning of tolerance and our ability to accept points of view that make us uncomfortable. That does not mean that we need to tolerate students calling each other “faggot,” hate mail sent to those who come to our community to provide us with information, the belief that any family is less than another, or students leaving a meeting in tears because they have been offered the opportunity to “be cured.” These responses are not tolerable in a community that prides itself on diversity and inclusion. Differing points of view, opportunities for open-minded dialogue, and acceptance of alternative beliefs can be embraced – as long as the behavior of one party does not impinge upon the basic human rights of another. We do not have to tolerate hate. That is why actions driven by hate are referred to as “crimes.”
There is a bill before the legislators calling for language to strengthen the current anti-bullying legislation – to include identification of protected classes. This is legislation that we should encourage our representatives to support.
Colette Lueck is an Oak Park village trustee.