A recent event at Willis ISD and comments made by a Conroe ISD board member have raised questions on what resources are available for LGBTQ students in the Conroe ISD area.

Following a Willis High School event in October where a drag queen was invited to speak at a cosmetology class, CISD trustee Dale Inman spoke out against WISD’s choice of guest speakers and criticized the LGBTQ community itself. Inman has three daughters who attend Willis High.

“The LGBTQ community is one of the most vile, hate-filled communities I’ve ever come across,” Inman said in an interview with Community Impact Newspaper on Oct. 28. “These folks are vicious.”

Inman’s comments were both defended and admonished, with some calling for his resignation. Conroe High School student Zoey Nofchissey stood before the CISD board of trustees Nov. 19 and told Inman how his comments hurt her.

“To call us vile and disgusting and [say] that we’re vicious is wrong. It’s very wrong,” Nofchissey said.

Some local LGBTQ students said Inman’s comments and the drag queen debate highlighted their need for more resources and support for the approximately 158,500 LGBTQ youths in Texas, according to the Williams Institute at the University of Los Angeles in 2017.

Meanwhile, others in the community have voiced that they have the right to object to “alternative lifestyles.”

Divided over drag

The drag queen event took place Oct. 18 when a Willis High cosmetology teacher hosted a drag queen who performs under the name Lynn Adonis-Deveaux to teach makeup application.

Following the event, Inman said on Facebook he does not want “alternative lifestyles” promoted in Montgomery County schools.

At the CISD board meeting Nov. 19, several people called for Inman’s resignation, including Rachel Walker, a CISD parent and the engagement specialist for The Woodlands Pride.

“Our kids are leading the way on what it means to be kind and inclusive; it’s us parents that need a refresher,” Walker said. “The only way I see to move forward and to affect positive change is for [Inman] to issue a public apology and resign.”

CISD issued a statement Nov. 21 that the views expressed by Inman do not represent the views of the board of trustees or the district.

More vulnerable population

Much of the criticism Inman faced focused on the adverse effect his words had on LGBTQ students in CISD. Some statewide research indicates LGBTQ students are more vulnerable to bullying and mental health issues than heterosexual peers. •Research by the Williams Institute in 2017 found Houston lesbian, gay and bisexual students from ninth to 12th grade are nearly three times as likely to “seriously consider suicide” as compared to their heterosexual peers, with 15% of LGB students needing medical treatment for suicide attempts during the course of high school. •According to research by GLSEN, a national educational organization, only 5% of Texan students attend a school with a comprehensive anti-bullying policy with protections for sexual orientation and gender expression. CISD does not have protections for LGBTQ students in its bullying or harassment policies in their student handbooks.

Denise Cipolla, coordinator of guidance and counseling for CISD, said the district is supportive of its LGBTQ students and works with them to provide education and support. However, there is no standardized training.

This article ran in the January 2020 edition of The Woodlands. Read the full e-edition here.