Mansfield ISD: Explicit protections, please!
At the Mansfield ISD school board meeting on June 26, 2018, Rev. Ryan Felber shared his story during the public comments:
Good evening Dr. V, Board President Marcucci, and Mansfield School Board members. My name is Rev. Ryan Felber; my pronouns are he/him/his; and I work with children and youth as I serve on pastoral staff at Galileo Christian Church, which has been a part of the Mansfield community for a little over 5 years now. I also serve as the chairperson of the Mansfield Equality Coalition. The coalition currently consists of over 800 community members, 6 religious organizations, and 14 partner organizations ranging from local community organizations to large national and international nonprofits.
I want to tell you a short story, a story about me. I went to high school in the early 2000s at Mulvane High School, a small suburb of Wichita, Kansas. I was engaged, outgoing, involved in sports and the theater program, active in my church and in show choir, president of the student body my senior year, and editor of the newspaper as well. I worked at a day care and had a good relationship with my family. I had good grades, was on prom court, and from the outside appeared to be a perfect student.
I also attempted suicide twice and was drinking and using recreational drugs most weekends, if not during the week.
You see, like most queer youth, I felt isolated and had no one to turn to. I had loving parents who I couldn’t turn to because they couldn't understand. I had no role models to look up to other than the Fab 5 from the original Queer Eye and Jack from Will and Grace. However, I am one of the fortunate ones, because I survived high school and college and found people who love me. I found them in Mansfield.
That’s not the case for many young people. Too often, students – good, hardworking, quirky, amazing students, students full of potential – give in because they see no light on the other end, because schools don’t protect them, or refuse to allow teachers to give students good role models.
According to recent studies by the Human Rights Campaign, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the ACLU, queer youth are more than 5 times more likely than other kids to attempt suicide. These numbers are even higher in communities of color and with trans youth. These studies have also shown that one of the key factors in students' mental health is how accepted they feel at schools, by their peers, and by the the staff of the schools. By you...
I’m embarrassed that MISD has chosen to ignore the queer students in its school. For months you’ve heard testimonies from parents and students, faculty and staff, clergy, and businesspeople, all sharing their stories, their faith, and their heartbreak for the students of Mansfield. We have a simple request: protect the students and staff of MISD. We offer a simple solution: include sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender express in the non-discrimination and anti-bullying policies. We have statistics and examples of school districts that have done this, places like Fort Worth, Dallas, Austin, Houston, El Paso, Cedar Hill, and the charter schools right here In our school district. Do the right thing; be on the right side of history; and don’t let another child go through your school system thinking they aren’t worthy of your respect, care, and love.