It was standing room only at the May 13 Northshore School District (NSD) Board meeting. The board room was filled to capacity with over 220 people causing attendees to spill into the hallway and lobby. A large number of attendees watched the school board meeting through a remote feed or on their phones in the lobby. The majority of attendees were community members who came out to share their opinions in regards to possible NSD Pride Month activities in June. Social media contributed to the large attendance numbers.
A memo from NSD Superintendent, Dr. Michelle Reid, was distributed to all attendees prior to the meeting and was addressed to Northshore Staff and Community outlining Pride Month Planning within NSD. Dr. Reid wrote, “I am writing to clarify the current confusion regarding the Pride Month planning. As many of you, though likely not all of you are aware, there has been quite a lot of discussion, some of it rancorous, surrounding this topic.”
Pride Month planning at NSD began in January when some students, staff and parents approached Dr. Reid regarding possible Pride celebrations in June. Dr. Reid agreed they could create a group to discuss possible celebration ideas to be brought back to her for further discussion. An invitation was sent to all NSD staff members inviting them to be part of the discussion of ideas and activities for Pride month. Several meetings were held and numerous ideas were discussed. The group that was working on these ideas has now identified themselves as Northshore Pride. Northshore Pride’s leadership has stated their mission is to “advocate for a historically underrepresented social minority, the LGBTQ+ community.” LGBTQ is an acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer or questioning.
As a reaction to these proposed ideas, a website called NSD Unity was created. Some of the brain-storming ideas appeared on the NSD Unity webpage and were labeled as NSD planned activities. There was a call to action for those opposed to the ideas to come to the May 13 Board meeting to share their opinions. A representative for the group, Kyle, spoke at the board meeting and characterized NSD Unity as being comprised of students, staff and parents within NSD. The website has now been taken down.
As Dr. Reid wrote, “Unfortunately, for both sides (and possibly many sides of this conflict), much of this dissonant rhetoric has been the result of misunderstandings. Communication is both a fragile and critical component of healthy communities.”
Prior to the board meeting, Dr. Reid met with leadership from Northshore Pride and NSD Unity. The goal of the meeting was to discuss the misunderstandings and to develop a future plan.
In the board meeting, Dr. Reid relinquished her report time to the leadership of both groups. Each side was able to share their position and what their hopes were for the district moving forward. Dr. Reid indicated the district will work on transparency regarding Pride Month with the community.
The School Board agreed to expand the public comment section of the meeting to 90 minutes to allow time for everyone who had signed up the opportunity to speak. The audience was asked to assume positive intent of those speaking, to be mutually respectful and avoid negative behavior. The majority of comments were in support of the LGBTQ+ community. One father asked the district to provide more information so he could understand what was being shared with his elementary-age children.
NSD Board President, Sandy Hayes, thanked everyone for their comments and for having a civil and productive conversation.
The business of the board continued after a five minute break. The board approved instructional materials, agreed the superintendent was making adequate progress toward the P-10 Technology parameter of her job and reviewed budget reports.