FALCONER – Officials from a Chautauqua County school district are working with parents of students who walked out of class earlier this month in protest, following instances of bullying towards the school’s LGBT+ student body.
During Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting at Falconer Central School, a few parents addressed board members about their concerns. All the while, district officials tell us they are continuing to work everyday to make students of the queer community feel welcome.
“It’s not just one particular group of kids, it’s the acceptance of all kids and it’s the acceptance of all of us. That when they walk in these doors there has to be a feeling of support and safety, and those are the things we try everyday. But as we know, safety isn’t always easily achieved in our world today,” Superintendent Penhollow said. “I think as a school district, we continue to try to create a safe and supportive environment for all of our kids and for all of our people, which I think we do a very good job.”
While parents at the meeting are upset about the bullying instances, they give credit to the school’s principals for stepping up.
“I was not very happy with the school because of the way my son who is a member of the queer community and his friends were being treated. I was not happy at all,” said Sean Jones, a concerned parent. “I can say though, that the very next day a lot of credit goes to Mr. Jordan. He called me first thing in the morning and we spoke for over an hour and that man cares about these children.”
“He’s already met with another committee member that I work with that works for Prevention Works and he’s also agreed to meet with her, myself who’s on the committee and works for the Mental Health Association in Chautauqua County, the students who were involved in the walkout, and some of the parents to come up with a plan moving forward. Not just for the next year, but for the years to come for the queer students of Falconer,” Jones explained.
While the walkout brought attention to bullying allegations taking place within the halls of the school, it appears it was only the beginning.
“Most things that are reported, there’s always a vast amount of truth,” Penhollow explained, “In the cases where we found things that were kids not treating each other nicely or appropriately, we address those concerns with the kids.”
“When kids aren’t respectful of others, for whatever reason, we bring them in and we talk with them, we talk with their families, and we try to figure out what the bottom line is. What was the concern? Why did this happen? How can we remedy it? How can we try to do what’s best for the future and treat each other with kindness,” Penhollow continued.
The district recognizes that there is always room for improvement.
“We as educators have to do our best each and every day and sometimes the best isn’t good enough that day,” Penhollow said. “The goal is to educate all of our kids that we’re all the same, but yet, we’re all different. I think that’s important that people understand that different all though it may not be what you believe in or what I believe in, but at the end of the day we’re all people.”
Parents tell us this is just the beginning of conversations to improve on the subject, with district officials, parents and local leaders in the Jamestown area Pride Community slated to meet next month, furthering discussions on how to foster a safe environment for students within the LGBTQIA+ community.