US NEWS Kansas City school district to host listening sessions following...

Kansas City school district to host listening sessions following backlash over banning of ‘safe space’ signs for LGBTQ kids

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Kansas City school officials who ordered high school teachers to remove LGBTQ-inclusive cards and stickers from classrooms earlier this week now want to hear feedback from the community, following widespread criticism.

On Monday, members of the Grain Valley School Board in Kansas City, Mo. sent an email to parents saying that after receiving concerns about “the display by some high school teachers to signal students could feel safe approaching them regarding personal LGBTQ questions,” they had “directed the administration to have the cards and stickers removed.”

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According to district officials, the signs — which read “Safe Space for All” written over a Pride rainbow background — were not necessary, because every classroom should be a safe place for all students, and not just the ones whose teachers choose to display a particular sign or message.

“We remain committed to providing professional development to help our staff create a safe, collaborative, and inclusive environment, consistent with our core beliefs, where each student feels a sense of belonging. The use of these cards, however, is determined to not be an appropriate step at this time,” the officials said in a statement.

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The move was met with immediate backlash, with many parents and students saying that the signs are crucial for LGBTQ students to feel safe at school.

Just two hours after school officials announced their decision, a group of students took to the streets to show their support for their LGBTQ peers.

Criticism was also voiced on social media, with users referring to the move as “scaryso sad,” and “absolutely enraging.”

Justice Horn, a Grain Valley graduate who is openly gay and is running for the Jackson County Legislature, tweeted that he tried taking his own life in 2011 “because I was bullied for being gay while attending Grain Valley South Middle School,” added that removing the signs “may save a kid from making a similar decision like I did because we didn’t have these.”

He later tweeted a photo of his younger self, writing that he was “a closeted gay Black kid who was living in Grain Valley, Mo. [who] was pretty involved, but was bullied so much that I believed being gone was better than living – and I acted on that. Thankfully, I was unsuccessful and would move to Blue Springs.”

Speaking with local television station KCTV5, Horn said that those stickers are more than just signs. LGBTQ kids who might “think they don’t they don’t have a place in the world, [that sign] means the world” to them.

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On Tuesday, after facing the ongoing backlash, school officials announced they will soon want to hear from the community, acknowledging that there’s “work ahead” so they can provide a safe and inclusive environment for all kids.

“We appreciate the comments we have received since communicating the decision to remove safe place cards and stickers from high school classrooms. The feedback will help us be better,” the district said in a statement titled “Next Steps Forward as a Community.”

“An inclusive environment is essential, including for our student LGBTQ community. We recognize there is important work ahead of us to ensure an inclusive school environment,” the statement reads, according to KCTV5.

“In the coming weeks, we will host listening sessions for our community stakeholders, so our students, families, and staff have an opportunity for dialogue. School board members and the administration will participate,” officials said.

Dates for the sessions have not been announced, but the district says that the input will be used “to drive the action that will follow so that together we become the school district our community expects.”

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