Concerned Parents Flood Hillard City School Board Meeting over Staff-Worn LGBTQ ‘I’m Here’ Badges

Hilliard City Schools met for a board meeting on Monday to discuss a policy regarding release time for religious instruction. However, the meeting was flooded with concerned parents over new LGBTQ “I’m Here” badges worn by classroom faculty and adult staff at the schools.

These badges were implemented at the beginning of the school year and were distributed by the teachers union National Education Association (NEA) and its local affiliate, Hilliard Education Association (HEA), according to Lisa Chaffee, director of Ohio Parents Rights and Education.

“The school district did not give permission for these badges. Rather, the union president with the HEA, Linna Jordan, did it on her own volition,” Chaffee told The Ohio Star.

The badges are two-sided, with the front side declaring “I’m Here / Safe Person / Safe Space.” The backside of the badge features a QR code linked to the website that offers information on how to get additional badges, and includes several links to a network of sponsors and affiliated organizations supporting the program.

The badges also carry the disclaimer that if you are not a “safe” person, you are not approved to wear the badge.

In addition to the teachers’ unions, the website lists its supporting organizations, which include GLSEN, Alliance Medical Center and the WEA LGBTQ Caucus along with 44 other partners in support. The website also contains LGBTQ+ book lists for children and resource guide.

The “I’m Here” LGBTQ badge program and website are by the NEA- lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer caucus.

Unions provide badges to any teacher who requests one.

A concerned father of six children, most of whom are in Hilliard Schools, spoke out in the public comment period at the board meeting on Monday.

“It’s important for me to know if my 9-year-old daughter is going to go up to a male “safe” person and read about … I mean, I was reading some of the stuff [at the NEA website] and I was embarrassed to actually share it with my mom,” he stated. “I don’t want my child to be exposed to any of that at school.”

To date, Hilliard City School District is the only one known to have implemented the badges.

The “I’m Here” proponents say is designed to signal “a message of inclusion and safety.”

However, according to Chaffee, students are getting access to the badges, which expose them to explicit information via the QR code and the website connected to it. The website contains numerous links which direct the viewer to a variety of additional websites and sources about topics such as masturbation, bondage and sexting.

“My main goal in exposing this is first accountability. This is a parents’ rights issue. We as parents have a right to choose what content is provided to our children and at what age,” Chaffee said.

Supporters of these badges, such as the HEA, NEA, teachers and administrators in the classroom, and some of the parents in the district, insist that they are wearing them as a symbol of “love and support.”

But parents, as well as Ohio Parents Rights and Education, say they believe that wearing the badges is politicizing the classroom and putting the teachers in a position to have conversations with students who, parents say, should be having them at home.

Chaffee argues that a teacher’s role is education, and that a teacher is not best-suited to discuss the mental health or sexual orientation of their students.

“How does a $2 badge make someone licensed in mental health issues? What if a teacher handles it the wrong way and a student hurts themselves? This is a safety issue,” Chaffee told The Ohio Star.

Concerned parent Christy Leiner, who said she is the parent of an LGBTQ student, spoke out during the public comment period Monday, and said, “We are focused on the incorrect thing: sexuality. Sexuality should not be in the schools, academics should be. School is for learning and facts. Teachers should not teach their opinion or any ideology.”

Leiner, who said she began working as a substitute teacher at Hilliard last year, added she found other inappropriate materials available for the children on school property such as illicit books in the library and literature on Critical Race Theory in the classrooms.

“This is not about being gay or straight,” Chaffee said. “This is about parents’ rights to choose and about the safety of our kids. Parents need to pay attention and get involved.”

– – –

Hannah Poling is a lead reporter at The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahPoling1. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “I’m Here Sticker” by NEA. Background Photo “School Board Meeting” by Lisa Breedlove Chaffee. 



Related posts