Platte County School District and Anti-Defamation League clash over equality

Last week, the Board of Education for Wyoming’s Platte County School District decided that two district schools could not display banners earned through participation in the Anti-Defamation League’s No Place for Hate program because the banners contained the name of the Gay and Lesbian Fund of Colorado, one of the program sponsors. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) stopped the program in the district and submitted a letter to the district’s board asking for the banner to be reinstated.

In the letter to Platte County School Board members, ADL Mountain States Regional Director Bruce H. DeBoskey said, “The No Place for Hate program is designed to teach young people the values of respect and inclusion for everyone in the school community, and we cannot continue to offer the program in your District if you will not permit the display of a banner (hard-earned by many dedicated students, teachers, and community members) that includes the words “gay and lesbian.”

Mr. DeBoskey went on to explain the benefits that the program brings to student communities. “The No Place for Hate program has been embraced by dozens of schools in Colorado and Wyoming as a successful way to make schools safer and more inclusive, by providing anti-bullying training and promoting respect for all students. At schools where this program has been implemented, attendance is up and disciplinary actions are down. Students have reported that they feel safer and more welcome at school because the students, teachers and community have worked together to make their schools respectful, and inclusive.”

Boulder Pride, a nonprofit organization that offers programs and services promoting equality in Boulder County, commented on the school board’s ruling by posting this comment on its blog:  “I am shocked by the decision to remove signs promoting a more tolerant (and learning focused) environment. I am proud beyond believe of the stance that ADL has taken. It is when we compromise, when we say “it’s okay to leave one group behind” that we are weakened in our fight for equality. Thank you, ADL. When we stand together, we are stronger, in every way.”

JVA is extremely disappointed by Platte County Schools District’s decision to not display the banners, which ultimately has brought this program to an end. Our evaluations of bullying prevention programs and extensive work within the GLBT community has given us a first-hand understanding of the potential for positive impact that programs like ADL’s No Place for Hate can offer. By ending this program, the school district is missing an opportunity to strengthen the student community and thereby build upon students’ learning opportunities.

ADL has left the door open for the Platte County School District to reinstate the No Place for Hate program as long as the banner, in its original design, is permitted to be displayed. If the Board of Education can recognize the opportunity that is being missed, it’s not too late.

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