Daily file photo by Patrick Svitek
Starting Monday, Evanston/Skokie School District 65 will celebrate its second LGBTQ+ Equity Week dedicated to exploring topics such as identity, family structures, gender expression, stereotyping and the contributions of LGBTQ+ people throughout history.
Superintendent Devon Horton, D65 Vice President Elisabeth “Biz” Lindsay-Ryan and D65 President Anya Tanyavutti said in a March 25 letter the LGBTQ+ Equity week was created to help create an inclusive school environment.
“In District 65, we take our responsibility seriously to create an inclusive, welcoming environment where every child can feel safe, valued, and has the support and encouragement to reach their full potential,” the letter read.
The first Equity Week was in 2019 after Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a bill mandating the inclusion of LGBTQ+ history into all public schools by 2020.
Just a month prior, Park School teacher Ren Heckathorne spoke at a school board meeting, criticizing the district’s inaction in response to the harassment they faced after coming out as transgender. Heckathorne worked with the D65 Gender and Sexuality Educators Alliance to create the weeklong LGBTQ+ curriculum to be taught to students throughout Equity Week.
However, the week faced some pushback upon its introduction, with some parents opting their children out of the program.
During the highly contested district’s school board race this year, some community members criticized candidate Marquise Weatherspoon’s potential stance on LGBTQ+ issues because she opted her children out of the week’s activities in 2019. Weatherspoon has since expressed support for the LGBTQ+ curriculum.
Administrators also wrote in the letter the week’s connection to the district’s Latinx Heritage Equity Week and Black Lives Matter at School Week, and said LGBTQ+ Equity Week is aligned to the district’s equity goals. The LGBTQ+ inclusive curriculum is another effort to make the district’s instruction more representative of its students and families, Lindsay-Ryan told the Daily.
“We believe these lessons center both the academic and social-emotional needs of children, help build community, and are vital to supporting our district mission of preparing students to contribute positively to a global and diverse society,” the letter read.
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