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Bismarck parent asks school board to address harassment of LGBTQ students

Bismarck parent asks school board to address harassment of LGBTQ students

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The mother of a Bismarck Public Schools student asked the school board Monday to address what she said is harassment that LGBTQ students are facing in schools.

Brandi Hardy told the board about a video from the social media app TikTok of an apple being thrown at a table of LGBTQ middle school students. She told the Tribune that her transgender child was at the table. After the students had been disciplined for throwing objects, they continued to harass LGBTQ students with homophobic statements, Hardy said.

"I will say, as a mom, it feels very shameful that our Bismarck Public School system, who claim to empower every learner to thrive, continue to avoid making real change on these issues relating to LGBTQ youth," Hardy said.

The incident was reported to the school administration and the school resource officer, Hardy said. She did not name the school.

She said harassment of LGBTQ students is an ongoing issue that the school board should address. Hardy, who attended the meeting with her wife, said her 10-year-old had been told her mothers were going to hell for being lesbians.

Hardy said she hopes the district sits down with parents and students to see what policies are and are not working to create a "safe and harassment-free environment" for kids as well as for the inclusion of gay-straight alliances in schools.

The board will respond to Hardy's comments at its March 8 meeting, per its policy.

Hardy's request to the board comes two weeks after the North Dakota House passed a bill that would prohibit a publicly funded school or entity from allowing a person under 18 to participate on a high school girls or boys team exclusively for the opposite sex. House Bill 1298 now goes to the Senate. More than 30 mostly teenagers gathered on the steps of the state Capitol in Bismarck on Friday to protest the bill.

Hardy referenced the legislation, saying "our fear is this isn't going to stop anytime soon."

"We want to start having those discussions on a local level," she said.

Elementary school construction

The school board approved a bid to construct one of two new elementary schools for a total of $17.6 million Monday. Northwest Contracting will be the general contractor.

The cost for the northwest school includes about $15.3 million to build the main structure and $2.3 million to add a third wing to the building for extra capacity. The board is set to consider approving a bid for constructing a second elementary school at its March 8 meeting.

BPS is building the new schools in the Elk Ridge addition west of Horizon Middle School and in the Silver Ranch addition east of Sunrise Elementary, to address rising enrollment in the district. Ground was broken at the northwest site in October. Groundbreaking for the northeastern school is planned in the spring.

The new schools were planned to have 16 classrooms with an initial capacity of 325 students and the ability to expand to 24 classrooms with a capacity of 500 students if enrollment growth continues. The school board has not yet decided whether to build the second school at maximum capacity. The schools are scheduled to open in the fall of 2022.

The district estimated in October that the price for each school could be between $13.5 and $16.5 million. The schools will be paid for by bonding about $34 million against the district's 10-mill building fund property tax levy. The remaining costs will come from the building fund itself. It will have no effect on property taxes.

Board members said they wanted to build the first school at full capacity to keep up with increasing enrollment as Bismarck expands.

"It just makes sense to do the full build-out," board member Jon Lee said. "It would be the most beneficial for the district."

Reach Sam Nelson at 701-250-8264 or sam.nelson@bismarcktribune.com.

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