Pittsford parents debate if elementary schoolers are too young for LGBTQ ‘Rainbow Clubs’

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PITTSFORD, N.Y. (WHEC) — School leaders in Pittsford faced criticism and acrimony Tuesday over school clubs that focus on issues like sex and gender identity among elementary school students.

When the board gathered to consider its 2022-2023 budget, it faced blistering criticism over plans to open “Rainbow Clubs” in two elementary schools.

“Rainbow clubs are a safe, supportive, place for gender diverse youth and those who come from gender diverse families,” parent Katherine Baker declared to the board.

Defenders who spoke out before the Pittsford School Board in support of the "Rainbow Club" included parents, but also students like Maddy Powell, who said she would have liked to join such an organization herself.

“It’s also just about queer identities in themselves,” she said, “and how you can recognize your own queer identity.”

Superintendent Michael Pero explained the district has gotten applications to start rainbow clubs at Thornell Road Elementary School and Jefferson Road Elementary and said they are under review, but some parents turned out to say that kind of an organization is not appropriate for younger students, even after school.

“I am very supportive of whatever anyone is,” exclaimed parent Susan Koomen. “But I’m not sure that I want it advertised in school. Because the afterschool activities are marketed to the kids.”

“I don’t believe that age group should be subjected to that kind of information right now,” added Beth Smythe. “They just should have a childhood.”

The issue brought repeated calls for respect and cooperation from the board but the conversation did get heated.

“Half the people in the room are clapping for transphobia,” exclaimed one parent, to a chorus of groans and boos from the crowd.

In his comments, Pero blamed much of the acrimony on social media rumors and insisted that the Rainbow Club proposals are simply being considered and that the board doesn’t make the call… although board president Amy Thomas made a point of speaking out.

“We denounce all forms of hate and discrimination, in this case toward our LGBTQIAA+ [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Androgynous, Asexual, and more] students and families,” she announced.

Pero said future rainbow clubs will be fairly considered, just like any other club proposal.