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Organizations respond to increase of anti-LGBTQ school incidents statewide

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Local and statewide LGBTQ organizations are reacting to an increase of anti-LGBTQ incidents in schools across the state.

The groups, including Equality Illinois, Rainbow Cafe LGBTQ Youth Center, the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance, Youth Outlook and Peoria Proud, held a press conference on Tuesday evening to highlight the issue and to let the community that there is support. Incidents, ranging from name-calling up to assault, have seen a sharp uptick in the past year.

Mony Ruiz-Velasco, deputy director of Equality Illinois, said incidents, ranging from name-calling up to assault, have seen a sharp uptick at schools in the past year.

“We want students to know we are here for them,” she said.

Carrie Vine, community relations director for Rainbow Cafe, said there have been incidents in their area since the start of the semester, ranging from Harrisburg in the east to Anna-Jonesboro in the west. The Rainbow Cafe has been working with Lambda Legal and the Women’s Center of Carbondale to investigate and support students. But they have been running into issues. Vine said that the administration at Anna-Jonesboro High School, where an anti-LGBTQ note was passed around, has refused to meet with the Cafe.

She encouraged students, families and schools to contact the Rainbow Cafe for support.

“We are working to track all these incidents,” Vine said. “We’re trying to provide trainings for GSAs and build a network of GSAs. We need to ensure the rights of students in the public school system.”

Grecia Magdaleno of the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance said their organization, focused on LGBTQ students statewide, was gathering collating all the reports that they have received.

Even closer to Chicago there has been an increase. Nancy Mullens, executive director of Youth Outlook in Naperville, said they have seen an increase in the number and severity of incidents, including hostility from teachers themselves. She said she’s particularly worried about DeKalb County, just outside the suburban collar counties.

Mullens said the incidents are coming as a pushback against recent advances the LGBTQ community has made, such as the Inclusive Curriculum Law and state policies ensuring restroom access.

“With these incidents, as they’re coming up, there is a mobilizing of anti-LGBTQ pushback at local level,” said Ruiz-Velasco. “But a majority of people are supportive and affirming.”

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