Ontario Middle School Cancels LGBT Event For Student Safety

  • 12/11/2018 9:21:09 PM
  • Jesse Smith
  • Local News

ONTARIO, OH - When several people at Ontario Middle School organized an LGBT Support Day, many were hoping that the event would help minorities in the student body feel more comfortable and at-ease around their classmates and fellow students.

The event would have had participating students wearing matching shirts and apparel in solidarity with lesbian, gay, transgendered and bisexual (LGBT) students, unifying the student body. However, the event was abruptly canceled by school staff, leaving some wondering what happened. Several community members appeared at Tuesday night's Board of Education meeting in the High School library to give their feedback and to find some answers. WMFD spoke to Tyler Ratliff, a graduate of Ontario High School and an LGBT advocate, to get his thoughts on the situation.

"As far as I'm aware, there were some concerns about student safety because of a protest made by other students saying that they're going to wear black shirts, or that they're going to write different sayings on their shirts," said Ratliff. "The superintendent, Mrs. Carmichael, did let me know that they were concerned about the students' safety because of the mean things other people were saying, and the day was pulled."

Ratliff says he wants to begin change within the school system that he grew up in, noting that things could be improved for all students who are just a little bit different.

"I just want to clarify, my point is not to bring back the support day," Ratliff stated. "My movement is not to bring this day back, but the movement is going to be to make this school a more inclusive, more accepting, safer environment for these kids so they can do what they're here to do: get an education. That's the main point. These kids can't do that if they're being bullied or if they're being harassed. If an 11-year-old comes to you and the only way they have to get out of a situation they're going through is by taking their own life, that's wrong. That's something I want to change... I want this school to have the resources to be able to handle these issues. I want them to be able to respond better the next time something like this comes up."

Ratliff had come to the meeting prepared, with a short list of suggestions he would make to school board members in order to better prepare them for similar situations and to help usher their school guidelines into the future. Several of these suggestions come in the form of rewording some policies in the school's student handbook, which would help identify and highlight problems as they present themselves.

"On page 16 (of the student handbook), the non-discrimination clause does mention that it protects certain students, but it does not include gender identity or sexual orientation, " Ratliff said. "I did ask the board to look into this being changed to include that because this covers not only their students but their staff as well. The second suggestion I wanted to make to them was LGBT training and minority awareness. There are many organizations such as GLSEN that will bring people in. This could be an optional day that they have, an in-service day... however the school would like to approach it, just so the staff has the option to be educated on issues that not only LGBT students face, but other minorities as well. I think that's very important, because next time something like this comes up, the school will be properly equipped to deal with it, no feelings will be hurt, no students will feel left out, and if Ontario does this, it'll help us with getting other schools to implement it as well."

Those who planned the event are discussing other suggestions such as observing a "Day of Kindness" instead of support days for specific minorities or groups so that students don't feel targeted or left out. No further actions regarding the support day or other such events were taken or discussed during the rest of the board of education meeting.

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