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Sullivan County superintendent: Send school board to diversity training

LAPORTE — In response to comments made at a Sullivan County School Board’s committee meeting, District Superintendent Patricia Cross and Kimberly A. Phillips, board president, issued a joint statement Thursday calling for members of the board to participate in sensitivity and diversity training.

“At Tuesday’s committee meeting an LGBTQ informational display was brought up for discussion,” Phillips stated.

“Comments were shared by board members that were offensive and hurtful to our members of our community. In response to this event, I am proposing that with the help of the superintendent the board takes sensitivity and diversity training as soon as possible,” she continued, adding that the training should be incorporated into yearly training sessions.

The issue revolves around a display, featuring a rainbow flag symbolizing the LGBTQ community, on display in the high school library.

“I’ll put it right out there. I think it’s wrong,” said board member Timothy S. Nitcznski at Tuesday’s meeting, which was featured in a YouTube video.

“I think it needs to be taken down, at the minimum, right now,” he added.

Nitcznski additionally commented that he felt that it was a slippery slope to “go down that road.”

“Then suppose that I feel we should have a KKK month or I feel we should have white supremacist month, or where ever I go. I’m not saying I support those things, I’m just going to the extremes here,” Nitcznski said.

He further argued that he felt the issue was being “crammed down his throat.”

“I do not like that. I’m not sure if that’s what you represent or what you feel, that’s fine and dandy, but don’t tread on me. Don’t force it down by throat. And that’s how I feel about it,” he said.

Other board members felt it might be an issue better addressed in a health class setting.

Board member Jessica Pennella disagreed. “It’s not a health class issue. It’s an issue about diversity and inclusion and not discriminating against people based on their race, their sex, their gender, their religion or their sexual orientation.”

“We’re not cramming it down anybody’s throat. It’s a tasteful display in the library,” she added.

In their statement Thursday, Phillips and Cross affirmed the diversity of the district.

“We know that we have a diverse student body and we want all students to feel supported and included in our community,” they stated.

“We know many of you want to share your thoughts with the board about how important a positive environment is for all of our students,” Phillips said.

The next board meeting will be at 6 p.m. Nov. 17.

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