I just spent the weekend filled with the wonderful energy from Austin Pride’s 2018 Pride Weekend. My daughter and I marched along with hundreds of other AISD students, parents and faculty behind an AISD marching band, all of us waving AISD Pride Flags and celebrating AISD’s commitment to make Austin schools a safe, #NoPlaceForHate environment for LGBTQ students, families and staff.
Even Superintendent Cruz retweeted my message thanking AISD for supporting and protecting LGBTQ students. (Which may or may not mean that he didn’t realize that I’m the one that wrote this letter of frustration over AISD’s delay in rolling out new comprehensive human sexuality curriculum that is inclusive of LGBTQ students’ needs.)
But then today, I saw this article from the Austin Chronicle in my news feed.
The main point: “The Austin Independent School District will begin renting its Performing Arts Center this month to a church with explicitly anti-LGBTQ views.”
The church in question is the Celebration Church, which has such detailed beliefs on marriage and sexuality that they had to dedicate an entire separate document to list them vs just posting them in the beliefs section of their website.
So, here are my questions for AISD:
1. Does your #NoPlaceForHate policy for schools and AISD facilities only apply to weekdays or do weekends count too? Despite the final paragraph of the Celebration Church’s Marriage and Sexuality Rules, everything highlighted in yellow is completely against AISD’s #NoPlaceForHate policy.
2. I realize that there are public space and freedom of speech arguments to be made, but my understanding of AISD’s policy is that “use of school facilities shall not be allowed when such use would be detrimental to the goals and objectives of the District as identified in District policy….”
In reviewing the values outlined in the AISD Strategic Plan, it seems that Celebration Church’s values are detrimental to the objectives AISD has outlined in their 5-year plan. (Full plan can be viewed here.)
3. Celebration Church’s own Marriage and Sexuality rules explicitly state that: “it is imperative that all persons employed by the church in any capacity, or who serve as volunteers, as well as anyone who commits to the membership/partnership agreement of the church should abide by and agree to this Policy on Marriage and Sexuality and conduct themselves accordingly.”
By entering an agreement with this church either 1) AISD agrees to abide and agree to this Policy on Marriage and sexuality, or 2) Celebration Church is compromising their own beliefs to enter a partnership with an organization which has publicly committed to support (and who has even marched to support) LGBTQ students, families and staff.
4. Are the values of the other churches that rent space from AISD in line with AISD’s goals and objectives?
I’m hopeful that AISD leadership will adhere to the same values that they expect out of their students and reevaluate this partnership with a church that would be sent to the principal’s office for being a bully if they went to one of their schools.
Please, AISD, show us that your commitment to your LGBTQ students isn’t just limited to some parade flags.
Parents, allies and Austin neighbors – please let AISD know that you believe that the beliefs of the groups they partner with should be aligned with the beliefs of AISD.
Dr. Cruz: firstname.lastname@example.org
Board of Trustees: email@example.com
Social & Emotional Learning: Dr. Goodnow: firstname.lastname@example.org
Director of Academics: email@example.com