Live Oak Members Speak Up for Non-Discrimination

Live Oak members of all ages attended the October 22 meeting of the Leander ISD school board meeting to voice their support for non-discrimination language to be added to LISD’s policies. During the citizen’s comments section, Rev. Joanna and Stephani Bercu addressed the school board. (Their words are below.)

This week, we received a letter from one of the LISD teachers, who said we could share her words:

I am writing to thank you for speaking at the LISD board meeting on
October 22nd.  I was incredibly moved and grateful to see people of
faith come to speak on behalf of the LGBTQ community.  It is a voice
that I think definitely needed to be heard.  When I first came out I
found myself very fearful and anxious around people that I knew to be
Christians.  It is only after years of experience within the LGBTQ
community and among friends and family of faith that I have come to
have less anxiety around them.  My experience tells me that by and
large people who truly follow the Christian faith practice love,
compassion, and service to others.  Some of the people I admire most
gain their strength through their faith.

While I still retain some of that anxiety upon first meeting new
people, it is not as overpowering as some of the younger people I know
through my work as a teacher experience.  I have had some of my
students in the GSA say they are afraid of approaching students who
belong to some of the faith based groups on campus.  They feel those
students will “hate them” or “be mean to them” based on their beliefs.
I try to share my experiences with them to allay their fears, but I
get it.  When people have cloaked their hatred and fear in their
religion for so long and used it as a weapon to harm, it’s hard not to
feel the impulse to shrink and hide away from it.

So, as I said in the beginning, I just want to thank you for being
courageous, strong, and epitomizing what I feel it truly means to be
Christian and stand up for those in need.  It is so important for our
community and our children to see people of faith, especially leaders,
stand up for them and help reduce fear in the hearts of so many.

Thank you.  Thank you. Thank you.

Jessica Cooper
Leander, TX

Rev. Joanna’s words to the LISD Board:

Yesterday, LISD posted that it was #UnityDay2020 and that “We are together against bullying, and united for kindness, acceptance, and inclusion.” As a mother of two Rouse High School graduates, and one Rouse sophomore, and the minister of Live Oak Unitarian Universalist Church in Cedar Park, I was heartened to see that.

So my question to you is do you mean that? Do you want our school district to live into being No Place for Hate, where all students, staff, and teachers are treated with respect and dignity? The Texas Association of School Boards has recommended language that clarifies that discrimination against an employee on the basis of biological sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, gender stereotypes, or any other prohibited basis related to sex, is not allowed.

The curriculum that our children pay attention to the most is the curriculum that they see we adults living out. If we are going to teach them that bullying, discrimination, and bigotry are wrong, they have to see us committing to that. As someone who is raising her 4th teenager, I can assure you that “do as I say, not as I do” doesn’t work. To refuse to add in this clarifying language that has been recommended by the TASB is to say that being “united for kindness, acceptance, and inclusion” is not actually a priority for us.

The policies you create are a moral document. We build the Beloved Community through things like policies that set out our commitments. Please show our children that our commitment to acceptance and inclusion is one they can trust. Please accept TASB’s recommended language. 

Stephani Bercu’s Words to the LISD Board:

Yesterday, – “Show us your Orange!  No Place for Hate!  Make it Orange!  Unity Day Take a stand and raise your voice.  We are together against bullying, and united for kindness, acceptance and inclusion. Leander ISD Proudly posted on Facebook.

That was yesterday 13 days following the second board meeting where you appeared to bow to the hate, fear, and misinformation being spread by Texas Values.  Two meetings in a row, you have chosen to listen to an activist group over our district legal council and the Texas School Board Association.  

As Board Members you are members of the TASB and send delegates to the meetings every year.  This connection tells me you value what TASB provides.  So I am confused as to why you would question the recommendations they offer.

I know each one of you to be dedicated and intelligent individuals, however many of you were swayed by the lies spoken by Texas Values last week.  

Last board meeting Texas Values said this policy change would impact Sexual Education Curriculum.  That is False!  

In fact at both meetings Texas Values spoke at using this false statement, you as a board voted and approved the appointment of admin, staff, community members and parents to School Health Advisory Committee.  This very committee is charged with reviewing and making recommendations on Sexual Health Curriculum this year.  This committee has been instructed to review current state guidelines as well as existing curriculum before they begin their further discussions.

Texas Values claimed these recommendation would allow males to take over female sports.  FALSE.  Our district lawyer responded explaining that who is eligible to compete is actually decided by UIL and not under school board control.  

Texas Values claimed this policy would impact the district bathroom policy.  FALSE.  Restroom use is handled on a case by case basis currently for many reasons including disability, student need, etc.

Texas Values claimed these recommendations target students of faith.  FALSE.  Religion is explicitly protected by the statement of non-discrimination and no changes or edits are requesting to have religion removed from the statement of non-discrimination.

According to the GLSEN 2019 Campus Climate survey 86% of LGBTQiA+ students were harassed or assaulted at school last year.  I am here today to take a stand and raise my voice against the bullying that is being doled out by Texas Values, and that is being felt by our LGBTQiA+ community in our schools.