Katy Bourne


Email Exchange with Bill Mathias of the Lake County School Board

BM: Sorry your perception is your reality. I will not try to change your opinion, I only hope you will seek the truth. To date there are very few GSA clubs in middle schools. I am not ashamed, and I am certain I am on the right side on this club policy issue.

KB:  To use your position of “authority” to manipulate the law is unethical and abhorrent. It is especially so given that your goal is to create difficulty for young people. This is the very face of bullying. What kind of man are you anyway? What kind of man preys on the most vulnerable? And what exactly do you find so threatening about young people forming a Gay-Straight Alliance ? Does the idea of increased awareness and understanding between LGBT and straight people intimidate you? As the tide of tolerance grows in this country, it makes it more difficult for homophobic bigots like yourself to abuse power and trample on the rights of others. You are absolutely wrong about GSA groups in middle schools across the country. But as we’ve already established, you’re out of touch with the world around you and decidedly on the wrong side of history. This is far from over. Responsible adults will not allow you to continue to bully our LGBT youth. I wonder how you sleep at night. As I said, this is NOT over.”

He responded to this by breaking my email into sections and addressing different points. In turn, I responded back to him point by point and so it went.

 KB: To use your position of “authority” to manipulate the law is unethical and abhorrent.

BM: The reality is I sent emails to my state representative and asked that they correct the statue (sic) that would force our school district to allow ANY club on our middle school campuses. I am grateful they listen and the law was changed. I make no apology, my right as a citizen. (sic)

KB: And when did you write your state representatives requesting that they modify this statute? Was it before or after Ms. Silberstein tried to form the Gay-Straight Alliance? Seems to me that if this was not specifically in response to the issue of the Gay-Straight Alliance, you would have requested this change long before. (And this is an entirely different argument but what is the logic in opposing “any” club at a middle school?)

BM: The day after the initial vote. Logic is focus on academics, period! I am not opposed to curricular clubs.

KB: So you approached your representatives after Ms. Silberstein attempted to form the GAS. Given your timing, your claims as to your motivations are dubious.

KB: It is especially so given that your goal is to create difficulty for young people. This is the very face of bullying. What kind of man are you?

BMI ran because my dad served in the 70’s on the Duval County School Board. He taught me to give back, so after 30 years in Leesburg, that is what I am trying to do.

KBThis explains your history but does not answer my question. What kind of man uses his position to violate the rights of young people? Seems to me you’re not giving back but taking away.

BM: This is only one issue, so far I have quietly saved the taxpayers over $800,000.00. I also believe I am right on this issue. The term I am serving is only two years, if I don’t feel I am a positive force on the board I will not run again. This is one issue I hope you will ultimately look at the totality of my service.

KB: You’re hurting innocent kids and abusing your power to do so. Even if you’ve performed positively in the past, corruption is corruption. Using your position to influence the change of the statute for your own political gain is corrupt and sleazy. One some level, you damn well know if, even if you won’t man up and admit it.

KB: What kind of man preys on the most vulnerable?

BM: The ACLU, it is a shame how they have exploited that little girl.

KBThe ACLU is protecting Bayli Silberstein, who at 14 years old, is a young woman. They recognize a blatant abuse of power and the violation of Ms. Silberstein’s rights. They are responding accordingly and appropriately.

BM: OK, we differ. I believe the ACLU look for opportunities to collect legal fees. In this case, they have exploited this young girl. She states she is bi sexual (sic). How does a 13 (now 14) know that? I understand gay, lesbian or transgendered, but bi, sorry can not rationalize how she knows.

KB: And how old were you when you knew you were straight, Mr. Mathias? (Or is that something you’re still trying to figure out?) As for the ACLU, you have no substantiation for those claims.

KBAnd what exactly do you find so threatening about young people forming a Gay-Straight Alliance?

BM: Nothing, that is what is so frustrating. I have no problem for the GSA to form in high school. I do not think it is age appropriate for middle school.

KBIn an earlier comment, you said you requested the modification of the statute relative to “any” club on a middle school campus. But here you say the GSA is not age-appropriate for middle schoolers. So which is it? Are you opposed to any club on a middle school campus or more specifically, any club that includes sexual minorities? And why should you be the judge as to what is age- appropriate for middle schoolers? As a parent, I believe those decisions are mine alone and are solely between me and my child. If you don’t want your child to attend such a group, then that’s your prerogative. But you don’t have that right to dictate what other families can and can’t do.

BM: I have made the statement on more than one occasion, middle school clubs should be curriculum based. I support closed club for middle and open for high school.

KBDoes the idea of increased awareness and understanding between LGBT and straight people intimidate you?

BM: No

KBThen why are you blocking the formation of the Gay-Straight Alliance at Carver Middle School?

BM: NOT age appropriate (my opinion) However, it should be noted based on the legislature the “club” decision is up to the principal Carver Middle School has had two different principals review the GSA club, both did not support the GSA club. I support them.

KB: If it’s not age appropriate in your opinion, then your child doesn’t have to join the club. But you have no right to make that determination for other families.

KBAs the tide of tolerance grows in this country, it make is more difficult for homophobic bigots like yourself to abuse power and trample on the rights of others.

BMIt is name calling and stereotype that close the conversation, both ways.

KB: There is no euphemism for people who do what you’re doing. A bully is a bully. A bigot is a bigot. If the shoe fits,  wear it. If you’re going to use your authority to violate the rights of young people who are less powerful than you and if you’re going to use your position to legislate your biases, then at least be man enough to own what you are.

BM: I think I understand the tactic you and others have used. Apparently, you were bullied and called names That learned behavior you and others, now use to lash out at me. Top five names: homophobic, bully, turd, devious, bigot.

KB: I was never bullied in school or anywhere else. As for being called names, I’ve probably been called as many as the next person. I’m not lashing out at you, Mr. Mathias. I’m calling you out for what you are. As I said before, there just aren’t other terms for someone who does what you’re doing. You’re abusing your authority, violating the rights of people who are less powerful than you and attempting to legislate bigotry under the guise of something else. (We all see through it, for God’s sake.) And for the record, I never used the term “devious turd” in reference to you, but if that’s how you self-identify, then it’s probably accurate.

KB:  You are absolutely wrong about GSA groups in middle schools across the country.

BMIf you have an exact count I would like to know, GSA site stated new to middle schools. if (sic) you have reference to how many I would like to know.

KBI don’t have numbers but will get back to you on that. I do know what most Seattle middle schools have GSA groups. But what does it matter anyway? What if Carver Middle School were the first with a GSA group? So what?

BM: It matters because of my position that this is an age appropriate club (high school) Why are you and others try to push this on 11-13 year old children? As you found there is limited middle school participation.

KB: I have not “found” that there is “limited middle school participation.” I said I would get back to you with a figure. And nobody is pushing this on anyone. School clubs are voluntary. Nobody has to join one if they don’t want to. But while we’re on the subject of that particular age demographic, there are many within it who are LGBT , know it about themselves and are trying to find their way in a world with an uneven playing field for sexual minorities. If you think kids this age are somehow unaware of their own sexuality, you’re truly delusional. My gay son came out at age 13. It was perhaps the most empowering and affirming moment of his life. After coming out, he moved through the world with more assurance. His academics improved significantly. He became happier and more engaged in his community. Nobody is pushing anything on 11-13 year olds, Mr. Mathias. They’re already there.

KBBut as we’ve already established, you’re out of touch with the world around you and decidedly on the wrong side of history.

BMPossibly

KB: This is far from over. Responsible adults will not allow you to continue to bully our LGBT youth. I wonder how you sleep at night.

BM: I have never bullied anyone. The fact that I am looking at a bigger picture than your narrow “gay initiative” will allow is sad. If you will take a minute and try to understand what problem(s) an open policy could cause our 11-13 yer (sic) old children you might decide that I am practicing good governance. The policy discussion is more than GSA.

KB: Hmm, exactly what is this “gay initiative” that you’re referring to? Are you talking about the belief that LGBT people are entitled to the same rights and privileges are heterosexuals people? And explain to me how a Gay-Straight Alliance could cause problems for 11-13 year olds. It seems to me that denying these 11-13 year olds their right to assembly and free speech is far more problematic than any discussions or activities that they may engage in at a GSA meeting. You are not “practicing good governance.” You’re taking a crap on civil liberties. And by using your position of power to block the efforts of a middle schooler, you are most certainly a bully.

BM: Please at what point are you concerned about education? Is it the students SAT or ACT score that will get them into college, not club participation. At the orientation last month for my son at the University of Florida, they said we don’t care what clubs you belong to, unless you were in leadership. More important was volunteer service to community.

KB: Who said I wasn’t concerned about education? Now you’re making stuff up. And why are academics and extracurricular clubs mutually exclusive in your mind? Extracurricular clubs enhance the culture of the school and contribute to a more positive learning environment overall. As for you remark about your son’s university, just because it doesn’t matter on a transcript it doesn’t mean that there isn’t inherent value in the club. Kids learn and grow in a lot of different ways. Why make their worlds so small? And you didn’t answer my question about the “gay initiative.”

BM: On my right side and very well. It is also easy to look in the mirror the next day, because I am true to my convictions.

KBIt is immoral and cowardly to deny other people their fundamental rights. You may very well be able to stomach what you see in the mirror today. But I suspect down the line, you will ultimately hang your head in shame, as you should be doing now.

BM: See Above comment

KB:  I do appreciate this dialogue. I suspect that you are receiving a high volume of email and have to give you credit for your willingness to engage. I will give you that much.

BM: Actually five emails for the GSA and over 100 emails thanking me. You and one other multiple emails. I actually did receive a lot of cut and paste emails prior to the vote across this great country. Very few from Lake County. Every parent I have spoken to supports my position, obviously not Ms Silberstein.

KB: From what I’m reading, your position is not quite as popular as you make it out to be. You should check out trending articles. But perhaps the majority of direct feedback you’re getting isn’t from your detractors. Ultimately, I suspect justice will prevail. History certainly will. Twenty years from now, I wonder how you will explain your dishonorable actions to your grandchildren, especially if they are bisexual.

I also included this at the top of my last email to Mathias, before I jumped back into the thread:

OK, Mr. Mathias,

I have another question before I address your recent comments below.

The main reason that Bayli Silberstein wanted to start a GSA was to address the issue of the bullying of gay kids at Carver Middle School. Given that you have acted so aggressively to block the formation of this club, what are you going to do to deal with the problem of bullying in your district and more specifically, at Carver Middle School? Would you be willing to sit down with Bayli and her peers and the school principals to work towards a solution to the problem? Surely you don’t advocate the bullying of sexual minorities or anystudents in your district.

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Katy Bourne is a Jazz Singer and Writer.