Worcester School Committee candidate’s views on sex education rocked local elections

As campaigns wind down for public offices across the state, a school board run in central Massachusetts has become a flashpoint on sex education in public schools.

Worcester school committee first-time candidate Shanel Soucy has drawn attention with her categorical opposition to the sex education program put in place by the district earlier this year and has garnered support from a conservative group with an anti-LGBTQ program. She has also become the face of a larger campaign urging parents to remove their children from the school’s sex education program.

Soucy, who is a certified electrician, is one of eight candidates voting for six available seats. The visibility of his campaign and the push to withdraw alarmed Worcester’s LGBTQ community, and on Tuesday the Queer Coalition of Greater Worcester held a press conference to denounce Soucy’s alleged homophobic comments that had been shared on social media.

Images of Facebook comments allegedly posted by Soucy’s account last year indicated that she did not support “homosexual behavior” and that, “[w]whether these behaviors stem from demonic influence or from the evils that reside in our own hearts, or both, it’s not for me to decide for someone else.

At the press conference, which was held exactly one week before the election, Joshua Croke of the Queer Coalition said Soucy cares neither for the LGBTQ community nor for their humanity.

“The LGBTQ + community includes students, parents and teachers in the Worcester public school system, all of whom deserve the respect and support of school officials and access to information that includes their health and well- be, ”said Croke.

In a Facebook Live video As of October 12, Soucy denied posting the comments. She claimed the messages were forged and distributed because she spoke out against the city’s sex education program.

“I find this offensive, not only to my campaign, but to the many, many deep romantic relationships I share with the LGBT community,” she said in the video.

In an interview with GBH News, Soucy said she hopes to replace the current sex education with another program and that she is the only candidate to oppose it.

“And so I think it really makes me stand out a bit,” she said.

The biggest battle over sex education in Worcester dates back to well after May, when the school committee voted 5-2 to adopt a comprehensive district-wide sex education program known as the Rights, Respect, Responsibility, or the 3Rs.

Cara Berg Powers, who unsuccessfully presented to the Worcester school committee two years ago, has long advocated for a comprehensive sex education program. The school committee rejected such a program several years ago which she said was a response to a small segment of community concerns.

“And they just kept cutting back on what might be possible and they ended up that year… landing on an agenda that wasn’t comprehensive, not inclusive for LGBT people,” she said.

The adoption in May of the 3Rs program was a major victory for advocates, who highlight the rate of teenage pregnancies and STDs as the need for better sexual health education. The program specifically includes information on sexual orientation and gender identity and focuses on what it calls age-appropriate sex education. He also emphasizes that parents and guardians are the main educators of their children in matters of sexuality.

Opponents focused on Worcester and called the program “pornographic” and explicit. The Massachusetts Family Institute helped organize a popular campaign urging parents to remove their children from the school curriculum. The campaign uses t-shirts and lawn signs with the words “Opt Out” styled in the same way as the logo of the adult website PornHub.

The IMF is affiliated with the Family Research Council, a national conservative Christian organization that the Southern Poverty Law Center has identified as a hate group because of its anti-LGBTQ views.

Although the MFI does not approve political candidates due to its nonprofit status, it has aligned itself closely with Soucy and his campaign. Earlier this month, the group present Soucy with a citizenship award, which is awarded to someone who demonstrates “a commitment to our Judeo-Christian values”.

Soucy didn’t tell GBH News much about his ties to the group.

“If an organization wants to give me an award, I think that organization has every right to do so,” she said.

Earlier this week, the Reverend Robert McManus, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Worcester, also publicly urged parents to withdraw from the program.

“The Catholic Diocese of Worcester joined other community and religious groups who wanted to ensure that parents retain their right to responsibly teach their children about sexuality,” McManus said in a statement to GBH News. “Whether the number of withdrawals is high or low is a matter of opinion. More importantly, parents had the option open to them and many clearly believed that it was important to exercise that option. “

The Telegram and Worcester Gazette reported that 2,970 Worcester public school students have withdrawn from the program. This represents just over 12% of the district’s student body, with most withdrawals involving elementary school students. This appears to be a significantly higher percentage of withdrawals than in other Massachusetts school districts. Concerns range from parents who wish to remain the primary educators of their children about sexuality to what activists say is an opposition to integrating information about gender and sexuality into the school curriculum.

The success of the withdrawal campaign may be at odds with the state’s liberal reputation, but Joshua Croke of the Queer Coalition of Greater Worcester says a number of factors have made Worcester a prime target for such a debate .

“Shanel’s candidacy, I think, for the school committee here in Worcester was an opportunity for the ‘withdrawal’ campaign to amplify its efforts in association with a political campaign,” said Croke. “And, you know, as the second tallest and [a] A growing city in New England, I think the countryside would find Worcester a major success point if it were able to significantly hinder the uptake of comprehensive sex education.

With just eight candidates for six seats, Cara Berg Powers believes Soucy is as viable as any other candidate. She received the support of MA AFL-CIO Central and IBEW Local 103, strengthening her credentials beyond the issue of sex education. And, according to Powers, his campaign is in tune with the well-known game plan of using hot topics to annoy Tory voters and scare the moderates.

“You know I kind of joked with some of my friends that the sex education stuff, the critical race theory stuff, the mask and vaccine stuff – the Venn diagram is a circle. “she said.

And although the city’s majority voted for Joe Biden in the presidential election, Powers is concerned about the combination of a traditionally low turnout in local elections and the potential power to mobilize voters around issues like than sex education.

“I’m really sad about the potential of what our elections might say about a small segment of our electorate that has too much power,” she said. “But I try not to be too discouraged by what he says about the city in general.”

For Soucy, getting people to opt out of the current sex education program was her own victory.

“And I hope to see more parents getting involved in many other ways, not just ‘pulling out’, but whatever ways they can know and be a part of their children’s education, I think it is. is amazing, ”she said.

Source link

About Joaquin Robertson

Joaquin Robertson

Check Also

common mistakes made in ransomware investigations

Thanksgiving may be a holiday for most people in the United States, but it’s no …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *