OKEECHOBEE — A graduate of Okeechobee High School, Marcus Dingers, returned to Okeechobee to address school board members at the Nov. 17 meeting.
Marcus made the decision to address the board after a proclamation of LGBT history month was pulled from the October meeting agenda.
Before being pulled, the original proclamation read that “the Okeechobee County School Board appreciates and recognizes the importance of LGBT History Month as an effective means of educating and calling to action the citizens of Okeechobee County to work together to promote equal protection of all Okeechobee County students and staff, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.”
The week before the Oct. 13 meeting, a few social media users denounced the proclamation and speculated that this meant children in kindergarten were going to be taught about being gay while others claimed this was an example of what they called a “demonic agenda” being shoved down their throats.
Marcus, who was a member of the Gay-Straight Alliance during his time at OHS, expressed his disappointment to the board that an inclusive proclamation could be mischaracterized as something it was not.
“I reiterated the fact that we (the public) were not pushing for a curriculum when it came to inclusivity within the schools,” explained Marcus. “Rather, we were pushing for awareness and understanding of these inclusive groups.”
LGBT History Month was first started in 1994 by a Missouri high school teacher named Rodney Wilson. Although not included as part of the original proclamation, every year LGBT History Month celebrates the achievements of 31 different figures from history. A few of this year’s icons included Anne McClain, former NASA astronaut and U.S. Army lieutenant colonel who served as flight engineer for Expeditions 58/59 to the International Space Station, and Deborah Batts, a federal judge who presided over prominent cases involving political corruption, terrorism and criminal justice.
“I felt it was important to voice mine and the public’s feelings at this month’s meeting,” said Marcus. “Discussion and awareness is the key, and even having the conversation we were having was a step in the right direction.”
At the Nov. 17 meeting, the Okeechobee County School Board proclaimed November as Global Diversity Awareness Month. The text of the proclamation read, “the school board of Okeechobee County, Florida, accepts and welcomes people of diverse backgrounds and believes that a diverse population leads to a more vibrant community, which contributes greatly to our schools, neighborhood and culture.”
For Marcus, it was a welcome step in the right direction.
“I was very pleased,” said Marcus of the proclamation. “Personally I believe Okeechobee as a whole wasn’t quite prepared for an LGBTQ proclamation. This was an awesome alternative to broaden the spectrum on inclusive groups.”