Bedford Co. School Board passes controversial policy with amendment

BEDFORD COUNTY, Va. – The Bedford County School Board voted to approve a policy that outlines how controversial issues should be addressed in the classroom on Thursday, with one amendment.

The policy which changes how teachers speak with students about gender identity or sexual orientation in the classroom passed 5 to 1.

There was one amendment to the policy, which changes the words “engage” to “initiate.” That means as long as a student brings up the subject first, teachers are allowed to speak about the two topics.

School board member Susan Mele was against it.

“To the LGBTQ community, I want you to know that I do value you,” Mele said.

Others who voted for the policy said this will give power back to parents.

“I do believe a teacher should maintain professionalism and keep their personal life at home as much as possible,” school board member Susan Kirby said.

There were close to a dozen people who spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting.

“It’s each parent’s job to introduce sexuality and gender to their children,” one parent said. “It is our God-given responsibility as parents, not a teacher’s.”

Teacher Cindy Gillespie spoke against the policy.

“Deeply saddens me that I might not be able to start the upcoming year by showing pictures of my family and discussing what I did with my husband and children over the summer since this will automatically define my sexual orientation,” Gillespie said.

Meanwhile, school leaders said they will continue to promote a discrimination-free learning environment.

“In response to the concern that the changes to this policy are going to create discrimination against any student or staff member in regard to any of their personal characteristics,” Superintendent Marc Bergin said. “School is, and must always remain a safe place for everyone.”

About the Author:

Amy Cockerham joined the 10 News team in January 2023.