LGBTQ+ Students Feel Unsafe and Unseen at North Polk Schools


Olivia Moody, Newspaper Editor

During the weeks prior to the homecoming parade, the Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA) was given the opportunity, for the first time, to have a float in the parade. 

After the initial excitement wore off, members realized that having a float means that they would have to walk in front of the entire school district, showing everyone their true identity. 

While it may not be extremely obvious even to the most open-minded heterosexual students, North Polk is not the most accepting place to be queer. 

While hate crimes are not a common occurrence, one student describes how they feel about the student population, “I don’t think the majority [of students] would be outwardly discriminatory. However, I think the few that don’t accept LGBTQ+ people are the most vocal, whereas the ones who do support us or are impartial don’t say much on the topic. I would describe it as more tolerance than acceptance.”

This unsavory environment is why the GSA decided not put a spotlight on themselves at the parade. 

GSA leader, Rylie Connolly, explained her reasoning behind the decision, “We decided not to have a float because we would have to have people walking with that float, which means that we would have to have people who would be really willing to be out and open to walk with that float.”

While these students might otherwise feel comfortable expressing their identity, they did not want to put themselves in a situation that they are unable to foresee or control. 

While some might find it presumptuous to make these accusations or prepare for the worst, I can say with personal experience that these fears are validated. 

As someone that is pansexual, I am constantly overhearing comments and slurs that are used to degrade and outright discriminate against the LGBTQ+ community. Just last week I have heard students call their friends “gay” as to describe them as stupid or make fun of their behavior. Within the past three years that I have been at the high school, I have heard slurs used against my community more that I can probably list. 

Is it still a question why the GSA would feel unsafe at a homecoming parade? 

While the majority of the school is probably supportive or at least indifferent to the LGBTQ+ community most would agree with Connolly when she said, “The group that is louder on their opinion is the group that does not like us being here.” 

Most of these students have found whom they can and can not hang around in order to stay safe, but some members of the GSA do not believe that the school itself can do anything about it.

 One student also remarked, “I don’t know what they [teachers] could do because it’s more of a student body mindset, but just if we ask for support, give it.”

Ultimately, to LGBTQ+ students, the climate of the school could be described as hostile. GSA posters have been ripped down, slurs have been heard and school support at times seems nonexistent.

While I can not give specific solutions that would magically change this situation, it is obvious that the district need to make direct change.