Tolerance event at Peet leads to confrontation

 

On Sept. 23, the new gay straight alliance/anti-bullying/tolerance club at Peet Junior High held a doughnut pop-up to welcome all students.

As Leslie Michael pulled up to Peet Junior High to drop her son off, she suspected something was going on. “I was kind of surprised at the long line. It appeared there was 100s of kids standing in the entrance of Peet Junior High. I saw parents. I saw tables set up, flags, one of those being the rainbow flag,” Michael said. 

“He (her son) got out of the car and at that time a bunch of kids ran over to him with stickers and trying to put stickers on him, and they had flags wrapped around them. He looked back at me, and I kind of shrugged my shoulders at him, and he looked at me and shrugged his shoulders back,” she said. 

“I proceeded to leave because I had to take other kids to school, and that’s when I got a text from him that said, ‘Can I leave school today? Everyone is in gay flags and the gays are taking over. They are handing out gay stickers and donuts. You should let me leave.’”

After a bullying incident involving a gay seventh grade student at Peet at the beginning of the school year, families “organized an activity to show support, love, and solidarity for LGBTQ students and the Gay Straight Alliance/Anti-bullying/Tolerance club at Peet,” said Eric Giddens, a parent who was helping at the event that morning. 

After receiving permission from administration from Peet Junior High,  students, who are part of the Gay Straight Alliance/Anti-bullying/Tolerance club, and some family members set up tables with gay pride flag stickers and donuts on the morning of Monday, Sept. 23. As students walked into school, they handed out free doughnuts, with enough available for everyone, and gay pride flag stickers. 

“The purpose of the event was to welcome all students to school that morning and to show that our families love and support everybody, including LGBTQ students,” Giddens said. 

“Some students spoke to Mrs. Kenser about having a group to help all students help each other.  The group has met a couple of  times, and they have named themselves  ‘Difference.’  They focus on being inclusive, being positive and being welcoming,” Principal Bill Boevers said. 

“They were saying, take one if you want it. I didn’t stay long, but they were handing out donuts and also rainbow flag stickers,” Rae Wilson, a seventh grader at Peet present that day said. 

After calling the school, Leslie Michael grabbed her husband and drove back down to Peet. 

“My whole thing on this: I don’t believe controversial issues belong in school,” she said. “You’re making kids uncomfortable going into the school because they shouldn’t be put in that situation.”

When the Michaels arrived at the school, Giddens and Kendra Wohlert, parents of a member of the new group at Peet, were still present at the event cleaning up.

“Robert Michael, a Peet parent, drove up, got out of his vehicle and approached me while he video recorded everything with his phone. He aggressively asked what was going on, and I told him that we needed to go into the school and talk to the principal,” Giddens said. “He eventually followed Kendra and me into the school, and when Principal Bill Boevers was available, Mr. Michael went into the office and I left the school.” 

Robert Michael took a video on his phone of the disagreement, although his face is not seen on the video. He was contacted by somebody associated with the Cedar Valley Patriots for Christ Facebook webpage requesting the video, and it was later posted on that Facebook page, whereas of Thursday morning on Oct. 3, the video had been viewed 47,000 times and received 672 comments.

Leslie Michael said they support the LGBTQ+ community. “To us, it’s a political event that happened. It just happened to be LGBTQ. We’re not against them,” she said. “I 100 percent support them. I don’t care what they do. They are wonderful people. I have no problems with them at all.”

The Michaels said they believe this event was politically charged. “So they’re claiming it had to do with everyone is accepted. We knew. The kids all there know. That’s not what it was about. That’s not what the rainbow flags are about. We all know what that is. It’s about something political or controversial,” Robert Michael said. 

Robert Michael said he stands by his actions that morning. “I don’t know how we would do anything different. We went there. We saw what we saw. If nothing else, it brought attention to what was actually happening and brought it to the table,” he said.

“The intention was to be an act of kindness with acceptance and inclusivity for everybody at Peet,” Boevers said. 

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