CENTREVILLE — On the first day of Pride Month, Kent Island High sophomore Ariana Barrett spoke to the Board of Education about her experiences as a member of the LGBTQ community in Queen Anne’s County Public Schools. Citing statistics from the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network that show 90% of LGBTQ students sometimes or frequently hear homophobic comments in school, Barrett said she has heard “countless” stories of bullying against community members. She told the board it needed to do a better job making schools a safer place for marginalized students exploring their identities.
“The amount of hatred that is faced by members of the community that is not only received from other students but from teachers as well begs some questions and some conflicting ideals,” Barrett said. “Why should I have to be afraid of talking about my identity or speaking my mind when people, [whose] only difference is that they love the opposite sex and identify with their natural born gender, are allowed to speak theirs without fear of scrutiny or hatred?
“This isn’t about whether you agree with my community or not,” Barrett continued. “This is about the rights of those who are struggling mentally and need to know that there are others out there who understand...this is about our right to simply exist without living in fear because of who we are and something we can’t control.”
Barrett made her comments to the board during the public speaking portion of the open meeting — that forum does not offer an exchange of comments between the speaker and board members.