LGBTQ+ Education Controversy Stirs at Schools Across Long Island

lgbtq education
Getty Images

LGBTQ+ Education Controversy Stirs at Schools Across Long Island

The national debate over students’ exposure to LGBTQ+ issues in schools has erupted on Long Island, most recently in the Connetquot, Greenlawn, and East Meadow school districts.

This “culture war” heated up about a year ago when Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill that targeted so-called sexually explicit books in Florida’s schools, sparking debate over the issue nationwide. 

While some parents do not wish for their children to learn about gay and transgender individuals, LGBTQ+ advocates say that this education is important for the acceptance and ultimate wellbeing of students who identify as LGBTQ+.

“When people see, hear and read about diversity of families, it only opens their minds to treating others humanely. Like it or not, LGBTQ people, teachers, students, bus drivers, administrators and parents are in all our schools and are not going anywhere,” said David Kilmnick, president of the LGBT Network on Long Island. “Each one of them deserves to be seen and heard through symbols and books, just like those who are different from them get to see themselves represented.”

On Tuesday, parents and students from the Connetquot School District will rally in support of high school principal Michael Moran, who is on a sudden leave of absence. They believe he was put on leave for showing support for LGBTQ+ students. Last week students also staged a walkout and protested in the hallways in support of the principal.

In fall 2022, an order to remove pride flags in Connetquot schools sparked a state human rights investigation into the district. 

“Gov. Hochul is committed to protecting the human rights of New Yorkers, and has directed the Division of Human Rights to investigate potential violations of Human Rights Law in this matter,” a spokesperson from the governor’s office had said in a statement.

Earlier this month, East Meadow School District’s assistant superintendent, Dave Casamento, was reassigned following comments he made regarding LGBTQ+ education.

Project Veritas, a far-right media organization, secretly recorded a conversation with Casamento about his views on his LGBTQ+ identity and how it informs his decisions as an educator. The recordings were spliced into a 9-minute video attempting to smear Casamento.

“[Parents] don’t understand why we have to talk about LGBTQ issues. Or have books that have LGBTQ themes in them,” Casamento said in one of the recordings, explaining the pushback that teachers get for including LGBTQ+ issues in their curriculums.

In the video, Casamento also speaks about weeding out candidates with conservative views when hiring teachers.

Last week in Greenlawn, a police presence formed at a school board meeting after parents demanded that two books with LGBTQ+ characters be banned from the district. The books, “Flamer” and “George,” have themes of LGBTQ+ identity and a transgender student coming to terms with their gender identity.

The rally for Principal Moran, of Connetquot High School, is being held at 6:30 p.m. March 21 outside the school district’s board meeting at Oakdale-Bohemia Middle School.