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Campbell County LGBTQ complaints shift to school board

GILLETTE — School trustees were the latest of local public boards to hear complaints about LGBTQ issues Tuesday night.

The public comments portion of the Campbell County School District meeting looked familiar to any who have followed the ongoing tension between community members and the Campbell County Public Library over materials those community members deem unacceptable due to the presence of LGBTQ issues.

“I would like to know what the criteria is for setting up a club at the high school and junior high school,” Dean Vomhoff said. “I would also like to know if the clubs are sanctioned by school, are monitored, and do they need parental approval? If not, I think they should have parental approval.”

He said he’d heard of a group or club at the high schools that provides a safe space for students to enjoy lunch “when they’re struggling with sexual identity,” but admitted he didn't know anything else about the group.

He also took aim at PFLAG, which, according to its website, is the first and largest organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) people, their parents and families, and allies.

Vomhoff rightly asserted that the organization had promoted a drag show at AVA Community Art on July 17, but the organization is not school-based club.

“I feel that they’re promoting homosexuality,” he said. “... I would like to know what a group that’s helping kids is doing promoting a drag show.”

Kevin Bennett addressed a proclamation the board had approved that recognized National Suicide Prevention Week.

“On the issue of suicide, I think it’s very important and you should be commended for taking this issue into account,” Bennett told the board.

Bennett cited a Washington Post story that stated that one in six people in Generation Z identified as LGBTQ, which, to Bennett, indicated an increase that was not the result of greater social acceptance of LGBTQ people but rather indoctrination.

“It turns out there is a reason for this,” Bennett said of the increase. “Some school districts across the world — I’m not specifying this one specifically, but as an entertainer, I’ve seen it personally — some school districts actually encourage this sort of stuff in people, thinking they’re helping. They’re trying to prevent suicide, but they don’t have all the facts.”

He then cited various statistics and studies that he said justified his concerns over transgender suicide rates.

“Now the problem is if we’re encouraging children into this lifestyle in a community that’s very rough on suicide, we’re almost guaranteeing people will die,” Bennett said.

He saw it as the district’s responsibility to discourage students from expressing their sexual identity if that would mean they would identify as LGBTQ.

“I think what might be worthwhile, especially considering the suicide week recognition, is putting in place policies and materials that can help people de-transition, or move away, from this lifestyle,” Bennett said.

Ben Decker addressed the board on similar issues.

“All around the country, school districts are beginning to teach harmful curriculum, such as The 1619 Project, which is anti-American, Critical Race Theory, which is ironically racist, and celebrating LGBTQ, which leads to greater risk of physical and mental disease and often leads to suicide,” Decker said.

Decker used the opportunity in front of the board to highlight John Money, a psychologist at Johns Hopkins for over 50 years who helped found the field of sexual identity studies.

Decker described a controversial case in Money’s career that, in his mind, proved that transgender people are at a risk of committing suicide by virtue of simply being transgender.

“Curriculum in some classes around the country and in many books in libraries are promoting the ideas started by John Money,” Decker said without citing any specific piece of curriculum that was worrisome. “I’m concerned that it might be making its way into our schools. We want the best for this community, keeping the education about things that will benefit the children and community, and I was wondering, I know you can’t answer me today, are there certain rules and regulations to keep some of these harmful ideas and ideas that lead to suicide out of our schools?"

Anti-LGBTQ comments have been repeated since early July when many of the same people who raised issues before the board took issue with the public library’s recognition of June as Pride Month. Things escalated when a transgender magician, Mikayla Oz, was scheduled to perform at the library but canceled at the last minute after protests were arranged and she had received threatening calls and emails.

The issue has been a source of ongoing debates at the library’s board meetings.