On February 26, 2023, the parental rights organization Awake Illinois reported that a teacher at Oregon Elementary School in Illinois had held a “secret LGBTQ lunch group” that was coordinated by a fifth grade teacher. The organization reported that “these secret lunch meetings were held in her classroom and grew to 40 students in the 5th/6th grades.” A “pride” coloring page flyer was printed out by this teacher for the group of students. The flyer appeared to show more than two genders existing and men putting on makeup. Awake Illinois continued to report:
School district administrators intervened to halt these lunch meetings after parents voiced their concerns. No parents/guardians were notified nor was permission granted for their children to attend segregated lunch meetings.
Awake Illinois provided an email from the teacher acquired from a public records request where she stated that “these are students who are questioning their identity as gender or orientation.” She appeared upset in the email because she was told parental permission was needed to organize students:
Now, we are told to stop because I am not a counselor (there are no lessons happening and the students lead any discussion) and we don’t have parent permission, for an alternative recess? As far as I know, since it is not counseling or instruction, we shouldn’t need a permission form.
She then discussed the possibility of restarting the group: “Sorry, long story short (I could make it longer, lol) I will be speaking with [redacted] about restarting the safe space for students but I was wondering if you would be willing to come here once a week for our 1/2 hour lunch and sit in for the meeting? This way we have a counselor and they can have their safe space.” The email is dated February 8, 2023.
In the email, the teacher also explained that she reached out to the organization Illinois Safe Schools Alliance for help. This organization actively targets youth with LGBTQ issues. The organization’s goal is “to conduct advocacy activities that will result in the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity issues in the programs and policies that support the safety and well-being of youth.”
On that same day, the superintendent sent an email to the Board of Education explaining the situation. He stated: “[Redacted] directed the students to eat in the cafe and explained to [the teacher] that while we support all of out students, it would be inappropriate for the school creating an LGBTQ+ group. The students can seek to create groups but teachers cannot impromptu create groups.”
Awake Illinois also obtained a letter to parents from their public records request. The group and “pride” coloring page were discussed. The letter stated: “While we appreciate the intent of the teacher to allow this group of students to meet, the administration at OES have found it would be in the best interest for the group meetings not to occur on school grounds during the school day and be supervised by school personnel.”