Hundreds Attend Last School Board Meeting, But Division Remains Strong
Last updated 8/21/2023 at 11:35am
BROOKSVILLE – Last night, in a crescendo to the 2022-2023 Hernando County school year, hundreds of parents, teachers, and students converged at Hernando High School for the final school board meeting of the year. But they weren't there to honor the scholastic achievements of the alumni; instead, it was filled with hate, division, intolerance, and accusations of indoctrination.
The Hernando County School district has been in complete chaos since early April, when R News broke the story of a transgender Fox Chapel Middle School teacher who made homicidal and suicidal threats. Since then, R News has received dozens of complaints from parent who claim some teachers are violating school policy by pushing their "woke" liberal agenda on students.
An incident involving former Winding Waters K-8 teacher Jenna Barbee was the final straw for School Board member Shannon Rodriguez, after she showed a prohibited movie to a room full of fifth grade student's, which included Rodriguez's own daughter.
The accumulation of incidents all seemed to revolve around one issue – sexuality and gender. You can find full stories regarding all these incidents on the Rnews.news website.
With a capacity crowd and media camera set to record, over a hundred speakers prepared to share their statements with the board and superintendent. The board initially voted to limit comments to a minute and half, but that was shot down by Board Member Susan Duval who motioned to allow every speaker their full 3 minutes.
At a glance, an estimated 80% of those in attendance were there in support of Superintendent John Stratton and teachers who are accused of indoctrinating students with their personal "woke" agenda. You could tell by the color of their shirts which team each player was on, and green and yellow dominated the field.
The majority of comments came from teachers and recent graduates of Hernando County Schools, who asserted their disdain for board member Rodriguez and proclaimed their affection for Superintendent Stratton. Most of the speaker's diatribes focused around two issues, Rodriguez not paying attention to speakers and Stratton's congeniality. At some point during each speaker's comments, they would stop and scream, "Look at me when I'm talking to you," much like a parent would say to child. The harangue would continue with comments about Rodriguez claiming to be appointed by God, followed by mocking Christianity with comparisons to biblical quotes and proverbs. After voicing support for LGBTQ and Trans students, commenters would close their statements with, "Stratton shook my hand."
Peppered throughout the evening were commenters from the right side of the aisle who attacked Stratton's failed leadership, the continued discovery of prohibited items in the classroom, and efforts to groom children under the guise of having an "safe place" for LGBTQ students.
One of the most jaw-dropping moments of the evening is when "Robert" of Brooksville stated, "I'm appalled at how many gay people are here." The room exploded with boos and hisses as he continued, "This didn't happen when I was in school. Teachers didn't teach gays and lesbianism. What they do in their own bedroom is their own business." Chairman Gus Guadagnino interrupted to silence the crowd before he could continue. Robert continued by reminding the audience of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. "Sodom and Gomorrah was destroyed by God because of gays, lesbianism, and orgies, so why do we teach this in school?"
The most shocking commentary came from a member of the Proud Boys, Spring Hill resident Robert Christenson. "I am a proud western chauvinist and I refuse to apologize for creating the modern world," says Christenson. Hecklers immediately interrupted his speech, prompting Christenson to attack Guadagnino for his biased treatment of handling outbursts in the crowd. Christenson remarked about the prohibited Disney movie that teacher Jenna Barbee showed to her class. He says the left is twisting the outrage by parents to be about the LGBTQ community, when the fact is that she violated school policy. Christenson goes on to say, "You've got a teacher running around dressed like she's the Lorax! These are supposed to be mentors. I don't want your teacher being my child's friend. The teacher is there to teach." Cheers, boos, and heckling continued unimpeded throughout his speech, so that much of it could not be understood.
Jenna Barbee has made conflicting statements about the incident but denies trying to push her progressive agenda on students. However, in a statement to CNN, Barbee admits parents have no rights in the hands of a public school teacher. "These conversations, these doors that she's talking about, telling me that I'm stripping her rights as a parent -- those rights are gone when your child is in the public school system," says Barbee. Dressed as The Lorax from Dr. Seuss, Barbee made an appearance at last night's meeting and read a very strange rendition of the Lorax, comparing the LQBTQ community to the trees from the 1972 child favorite.
The takeaway from last night's meeting is this: Board members Mark Johnson and Shannon Rodriguez want to preserve traditional family values and hold teachers accountable who do not follow the law. Teachers assert that there is already a large and growing number of LGBTQ students in schools, and they are just providing them with "safe places." They believe the "Ally" stickers and LGBTQ flags are innocuous and have no influence on a child's sexuality. Conservatives say teachers are breaking the law and that prohibited items are an invitation to children's innate curiosity, and that it takes away a parent's right to teach their children about sex and gender. Progressives say conservatives are bigoted and fascists, and that there is no place for Christianity in the schools. Conservatives say that if teachers are allowed to have LGBTQ flags in the classroom, then there should also be crucifixions and the Ten Commandments. Progressives say LGBTQ and Trans students are not safe and that "we should be more concerned about guns." Conservatives say their children aren't safe from grooming, and that mental health issues are what leads to mass shootings, not the guns.
One thing is clear, the division is not going away and both sides plan to continue the fight.
At the end of the meeting, Mark Johnson called for a vote of no confidence against Stratton. It was no surprise that the two Democrats, Duval and Prescott, along with Republican Guadagnino voted against Johnson and Rodriguez. For now, Stratton remains Superintendent of the Hernando County School District.
Click the images for short excerpts from the meeting. The entire six hours of comments can be found on the Hernando County School District's website.