Homophobic rhetoric was on display by a group of Temple residents during the Killeen Independent School District’s school board meeting this week.
Three residents from Temple, organized by the Concerned Christian Citizens, asked the Killeen ISD school board to take a position of “neutrality” after the group took issue with a KISD Career Center Women’s History Month bulletin board which included two historic LGBTQ activists — Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera — among other honorees in March of the last school year. The Temple group’s timing comes on the heels of a rise in anti-LGBT sentiment in state government with Gov. Greg Abbott and some state politicians calling on the removal of what Abbott calls “pornographic” public school library books featuring LGBTQ characters.
In 2018, the Southern Poverty Law Center identified the Temple-based CCC as an anti-LGBT hate group because of its efforts to censor an LGBTQ pride month display at the Temple Public Library.
Leonard Halleen, of Temple, who rode into the boardroom on a motorized scooter sporting a Trump bumper sticker, told the Killeen school board Tuesday homosexuality is “unnatural.”
“What I’m really upset about is why are we encouraging, embracing unnatural acts upon our children. What must nature have to thrive? It must replicate. Homosexuals can’t replicate by definition,” Halleen said before adding a homophobic slur.
Jerry Abney, 78, of Temple, another member of the group, said Tuesday the bulletin board in question had “been used for special interests.”
“I consider this to be a challenge to you, the board, because if we allow special interests to start pushing their agendas in these schools then where does it stop,” Abney said. “What I’m asking is that you develop a policy of neutrality. I hope that will solve this problem right away and stop it. If not neutrality, then at least equality. If we go for equality then it allows many, many special interests to come in the door.”
KISD mother Theresa Bonilla addressed the need for additional COVID-19 protocol Tuesday, but ended her time with a statement about the homophobic sentiments aimed at the LGBTQ community.
“I do want to touch on the things said earlier,” Bonilla said. “I think all of our kids, regardless of their sex, their race, their sexual preference, deserve inclusion. That’s it. That’s all they want. They want to be accepted.”
KISD mother Amanda Anderson, a Central Texas Pride Community board member, said she felt compelled to attend the board meeting after hearing CCC’s comments during KISD’s Oct. 26 board meeting.
“We have LGBTQ youth in KISD,” Anderson said. “What is it about LGBTQ posters, clubs, or groups that have so many upset? What about the safety of our queer youth?”
Anderson said 32% of queer youth miss school regularly because they feel unsafe at school.
“I come here to be a voice for my queer children and all the queer children in this district who may not have a voice here,” she said.
Former KISD educator and activist Irene Andrews initially addressed the board Tuesday about additional COVID-19 needs, before adding her own statement about the anti-LGBTQ comments.
“I would like to close by being able to say only a couple of words about these folks, however well meaning they are,” Andrews said Tuesday. “The only difference between the KKK and the CCC is that the KKK is recognized as an official hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the CCC is on their hate group watch list. The CCC is being watched because of their potential to cause harm. So, as far as I’m concerned, this is all we need to know and this is all I will give time and energy to say about them.”
The Herald asked the school district Thursday if the Career Center’s Women’s History Month bulletin board violated KISD rules or regulations, as well as whether hate speech is allowed during the school board’s public forum.
KISD Communications Director Taina Maya did not provide a direct comment, but responded by press deadline with 27 pages of district regulations including a document from the Texas Association of School Boards about “free speech rights.”