At the monthly meetings of the Board of Education of Caledonia Community School, members of the public are allowed to make three-minute addresses to the trustees. Here is what I said tonight.
Two words from me tonight: compassion and sex.
Compassion comes first. And last.
I know a song: “Everyone needs compassion.” It’s true. Life is hard. Everyone is insecure, everyone messes up, everyone has struggles that we don’t see. Everyone needs compassion.
Second word: sex. Sexuality is central to who we are. Sex can also make fools of us, or drive us to despair. Struggles with our sexuality make us insecure. And with sex, as with every aspect of life, everyone messes up.
Many arguments in school districts around the country pertain to sex. Parents feel, rightly, that they bear primary responsibility for the moral formation of their children. They don’t want to give that responsibility up to anyone else.
Middle and high school students are adolescents. Adolescents are children who are becoming adults. Discovering sexuality is part is of that. It’s not easy. It’s especially hard for young people whose reality is not what their social milieu or their parents were hoping for.
Both straight kids and queer kids sometimes act out inappropriately. They may have to be called to account.
But they also need compassion.
I have sat in these meetings and heard harsh things said about LGBTQ kids when they have messed up. I have never heard harsh things said about straight kids who act out, so maybe that doesn’t happen in Caledonia.
Some people say harsh things about educators who are just trying to make sure our kids know that they are not freaks and they are not alone. Some people call compassion indoctrination, or grooming. Some people want to ban books that recognize and accept the existence of LGBTQ people. This is organized bullying. It is mean and wrong, and I hope this board will be united in resisting all such efforts.
Adults also screw up. Sometimes the adults who do the harshest moralizing and accusing of others are themselves acting out sexually. Sometimes they get exposed. They may have to be called to account.
But they also need compassion. We don’t know their struggles.
I hope we know we cannot take them seriously if they advocate for policies that would bully our young people who have struggles with sexuality. But harsh blaming and shaming is not the way to deal with these adults either.
Everyone needs compassion. A love that’s never failing. Everyone. If you as trustees, and we as community members, will remember that, we might avoid some conflicts that could otherwise arise, and compassion could transform some that do arise into occasions for deeper understanding.