Boone board of education hears from opponents, supporters of LGBTQ-related books, issues

Kaitlin Gebby
Kaitlin Gebby
Kaitlin is a reporter for LINK nky. Email her at [email protected]

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More than two dozen parents spoke before the Boone County Schools Board of Education Thursday night on a topic that wasn’t on the agenda – books related to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) themes. 

Christy Watkins, a parent and therapist who spoke at the meeting, said she sees many patients that identify as LGBTQ who are working to undo the damage that a lack of support and representation has created, both at home and in society. 

She said there “are not enough therapists in Boone County” that could support the youth negatively impacted by a book ban.

She and several others brought up suicide statistics for LGBTQ teens. 

The Trevor Project, a nonprofit dedicated to suicide prevention among LGBTQ youth, said that its 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health “found that 45% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth.”

Parents standing in opposition to LGBTQ books did so for varying reasons. A common denominator was their faith as Christians. 

Bernie Kunkle was among the first to speak. He said teaching about LGBTQ people is “same-sex garbage” and schools should “stick to the basics.” He compared lessons about LGBTQ people to the Biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah, two cities that were destroyed for their “grave sins.” 

Jacob Salzman, a father of adopted and fostered children, said he was upset to find the board had seemingly prioritized counselor training for students struggling with gender identity over students moving through the foster care system or who are minorities in their community. 

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He argued that there are more children in need of support outside of LGBTQ-related issues and that the investment is evidence of “an agenda.” 

“We as parents will hold you as the school board accountable, and you will get to know who we are when we vote in November,” he said. 

Board chairwoman Julie Pile told LINK nky after the meeting that they have not been approached with any possible book bans or removals. She said concerned parents should speak to principals at their children’s school, calling any book removal a “site-based decision,” led by a committee of school officials and parents. 

A few weeks prior to Thursday night’s meeting, the Kenton County Public Library Board of Trustees was approached over a display of books with LGBTQ characters during Pride month. One local lawmaker who is running for governor attended and participated in the discussion.

“At the request of citizens who were concerned about content that was displayed in the children’s section of the Kenton County Library in Erlanger, I attended a library board meeting where a public discussion ensued,” Rep. Savannah Maddox (R-Dry Ridge) said of the Kenton County meeting.

Maddox expressed concerns about content that she perceived to be sexual in nature and encouraged the library board to focus on showcasing subject matter that is age-appropriate for the youth section.

The Kenton County Library ultimately stood by its display. Dave Schroeder, the executive director of the Kenton County Library, said the meeting was civil but that the board ultimately voted to keep the books in place.

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