STONINGTON — A petition is being circulated on the island asking a Community School District 13 (CSD 13) Board member who posted an anti-Pride/LGBTQ+ sentiment on social media last month to resign from his elected position.
When reached by phone on Tuesday, the School Board member, Bill Shepard of Stonington, declined to comment.
The post that Shepard shared was from Jordan Riley Ministries and it stated “The Bible’s Clear that God Opposes Pride. So, no, June is not Pride Month,” according to a copy of the post. Shepard had added his own comment, “Absolutely. It’s time to stop hiding God’s word to fit the world’s views. What about our Christian views and beliefs?”
A group on the island plans to present the petition to new interim Superintendent Robert England Jr. at the Aug. 3 School Board meeting.
State Rep. Genevieve McDonald (D-Stonington), who said she was writing not in her legislative capacity but as a Stonington mother of two, drafted a letter accompanying the petition, which will be presented to England at the Aug. 3 board meeting.
“It is unacceptable for a member of our School Board to be making discriminatory comments against the LGBTQ+ community,” said McDonald. “The elected leaders we choose to guide our school policies are responsible for assuring that students and staff learn and work in an inclusive environment.”
“There was a collective sense that Mr. Shepard’s actions should be addressed, and I was happy to lend my skills drafting a formal letter requesting his resignation,” said McDonald. “It is his choice whether or not he honors our request.”
School Board Chairwoman Jane Osborne said last week there has been inquiry about the community being able to recall Shepard from office.
“There is no mechanism in our town charters that would allow that to happen,” Osborne said. “We are not unusual in this. Most towns don’t.”
The social media post and concerns about it prompted soon-to-be former Superintendent Christian Elkington, whose last day on the job is June 30, to release a statement. Elkington starts a new superintendency for the Mt. Blue region on July 1.
“On behalf of CSD 13’s leadership team, I want to assure our entire school community that our schools and staff remain fully and unequivocally committed to ensure that each and every student and staff member can and will learn and work in a safe, welcoming environment in and outside of our schools. I had hoped that this would not be questioned as we have strived to both meet and respect the needs and rights of all in my time here as your superintendent but it is clear with the number of concerns shared with the chair [Jane Osborne] and myself, that I need to reassure our communities that we are committed to the policies adopted by the CSD 13 School Board.”
“These policies make it absolutely clear that our school district does not tolerate discrimination or harassment based on any legally protected characteristics, including race, sexual orientation, gender identity, sex, age, disability and national origin,” Elkington stated.
Deer Isle-Stonington held its first Pride parade and celebration on Sunday, June 27.
June is designated as Pride month, commemorating the Stonewall riots in New York City in June of 1969, which are considered the catalyst for the global gay rights movement. The movement has expanded to include the rights of transgender people as well as those who identify as queer.