Anti-LGBTQ activists target Pasco County Schools

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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PASCO COUNTY | Anti-LGBTQ activists are targeting Pasco County Schools for the district’s internal efforts to support LGBTQ students, utilizing a 26-page “pastor packet” to mobilize for the “Protect our Children Project” during school board meetings and more.

The project is spearheaded by anti-LGBTQ activist Terry Kemple, president of the Community Issues Council. The organization’s website advises its primary method of operation “is conducting small local gatherings of pastors” to protect “the traditional family” and shield “our children from indoctrination in the public schools.”

Kemple, who lost his bid for the Hillsborough County School Board in 2014 and declined comment for this article, has long been an opponent of LGBTQ equality in Tampa Bay. He is associated with and supported by the Liberty Counsel, deemed an anti-LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The group first set its sights on Pasco County Schools last fall, after a teacher objected to a transgender student utilizing a locker room which aligned with their gender identity. The district drew further ire after Liberty Counsel was alerted that a school psychologist was utilizing a guide designed to assist educators in understanding LGBTQ students.

The “Protect our Children pastor packet” of anti-LGBTQ practices and procedures was last utilized Jan. 15 at a Pasco County school board meeting in New Port Richey. The group circulated flyers ahead of the gathering, instructing attendees to “wear red, white [or] blue,” noting that “it’s time for the church to stand up and let the Pasco County School Board know that this is unacceptable!”

According to Equality Florida Director of Transgender Equality Gina Duncan, who attended the meeting in support of Pasco’s efforts, “there were roughly 100 people in attendance, most wearing the requested colors.” She notes that 47 speaker cards were collected and all but three spoke against transgender rights and protections. Duncan, ALSO Youth Executive Director Nathan Bruemmer and the mother of a transgender student spoke in support.

“It was difficult to sit there as an out transgender person and listen to all of the falsehoods and hate speech,” Duncan shares, “most of which was framed in Biblical references or false biology. Transgender people were described as abominations, confused, a safety concern, being mentally ill and apparently due to some pre-meeting messaging, many used the term ‘suffering from gender dysphoria’ to describe trans students.’”

The messaging stems from the “pastor packet,” which Watermark has obtained and reviewed. It urges participants to “let the board know the church is watching,” in order to “stop them from using the ‘practices guide’ and ‘gender plan.” It also aims to “replace non-biblically based school board members with Christians.”

Additionally, it asks pastors to gather petitions during services and encourage members, “including young people,” to come to school board meetings to oppose Pasco County Schools. “We’re raising up an army of Christians who will tell the School Board it’s time to PROTECT OUR CHILDREN,” it reads. Participants are further instructed to contact school board members via personal visits, phone calls and email.

Duncan, who applauds Pasco County Schools for their vision and care of students of varying gender identities, says that concerned citizens can email the school board to express their support of existing practices.

“Let the Pasco County School Board know that you reject the rhetoric of hate and discrimination from right-wing extremists and anti-LGBTQ hate-groups,” she says. “Let them know that you support a healthy classroom environment that embraces diversity and is welcoming for all students no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

According to the documentation, Kemple and his supporters will attend the school board’s next meeting to oppose LGBTQ inclusion on Feb. 5 at 7227 US-41 in Land O’ Lakes. For more information about the meeting or to contact the board, click here.

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