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Gender equality campaign sparks debate in Blackfoot

Gender equality campaign sparks debate in Blackfoot

BLACKFOOT, Idaho - Two students are leading a campaign at Blackfoot High School that has the community split.

Senior Eric Wood and sophomore Madison Thompson decided to bring a campaign from the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual Violence to Blackfoot. It's called "Our Gender Revolution," and it's an effort to achieve gender equality and end sexual violence. Wood says he and Thompson put a spin on it.

"We wanted to take it one step more, so we called it 'Love No Matter What.'"

The duo never thought it would spark the reaction that it has.

"The next day, after we put posters up, we already had parents calling in about it," said Wood. "To me, the first think I would think of when I hear 'gender equality' would be maybe equal pay for men and women, equal opportunities, that kind of thing. But, we do have transgender students here at the school, and their gender matters too."

Rachel Hanson, a concerned parent, said the school doesn't seem to know enough about the campaign. She's worried what might be discussed.

"The poster basically said that it was a gender revolution," said Hanson. "The one that I specifically saw that bothered me was 'I will be proud of my love no matter my gender.'"

The campaign includes an optional assembly, optional workshops and an optional march from the high school to Jensen's Grove. The school has permitted the activities but hasn't promoted them.

"So, if they don't come, it's OK," said Wood. "It's completely optional."

Hanson is worried the discussion might deviate from the campaign's true message.

"Are they really talking about the abuse that's going on and having a healthy relationship, or is it the underlying of 'Hey, I'm going to push that. It's OK to have this gender attraction versus this gender attraction, and don't let anybody abuse you against that,'?" said Hanson. "That's not OK."

Wood said the point is ending discrimination against anyone for any reason and promoting healthy relationships.

"There are people who feel oppressed because of who they are." said Wood. "I think we have the power to change that."

Senior Tanner Bean said nobody seems to know what exactly be discussed. He thinks parts of the campaign toe a very fine line.

"It seems like they're promoting to be gay, to be lesbian and to be bisexual, that it's OK," said Bean. "That's something that should not be promoted at this school."

Samantha Johnson, the senior class vice president, is going to attend the assembly to hear what is exactly discussed. As for the workshops dedicated to discussing discrimination experiences, Johnson said some conversations belong away from school.

"There will be people speaking from the crisis center, but there will also be transgenders speaking in a workshop," said Johnson. "I was very uncomfortable with that, because I don't think the school should serve as a facilitator for that."

Thompson stressed nobody is pushing an agenda.

"There are things that are happening that need to be addressed and things that we can stop by supporting this campaign," said Thompson.


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