Residents and teachers vent to school board about controversial issues and educators being stretched too thin
More than two hours of public comments dominated Tuesday’s Harrisonburg school board meeting as about 20 speakers voiced opinions on several different issues. The jumbling of topics — where one person would talk about working conditions at elementary schools while the next speaker addressed higher suicide rates among LGBTQ+ students followed by another person playing a gospel song to punctuate her point — gave the meeting, at times, the feel of a local political fever dream.
Ellie Tjaden, Lee Jenkins and Finn Maddox, students at Harrisonburg High School and members of the Gay-Straight Alliance, have weathered COVID shutdowns, masking and remote learning as part of their high school experience. But they have also experienced another strange phenomenon.
Hours after the first hearing of a lawsuit against Harrisonburg City Public Schools in connection to the district’s policies regarding transgender students, more than 20 Harrisonburg residents passionately expressed support and opposition at the school board’s meeting Tuesday.
Harrisonburg City Public Schools Superintendent Michael Richards removed the graphic novel “Gender Queer: A Memoir” from the high school’s library this week after people raised concerns at last week’s school board meeting — and following similar objections in school districts in Texas and Northern Virginia.
After the Harrisonburg School Resource Officer Task Force members split over their recommendations regarding police officers assigned to schools, the school board on Thursday decided to extend the current agreement with city police for another month to allow board members more time to decide what’s next.
Gay pride parades and festivals attract attendees for all sorts of reasons. Many are part of the LGBTQ+ community. Others come to show support for their loved ones, or just to be entertained at a big, outdoor drag show. Fifty years after the Stonewall Riots, Harrisonburg festival-goers told The Citizen what “Pride” means to them.