Polk Co. school superintendent delays LGBTQ+ Pride Month proclamation

News Channel 8 | By Staci DaSilva | June 13, 2023

POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — A leader of Polk Pride, an LGBTQ+ advocacy group, received a call last week from the superintendent of Polk County Public Schools, who wanted to explain why he was delaying the organization’s Pride Month proclamation.

“He brought up a really good point about why are we doing this in June? The attendance is very low at the school board meetings in June. People are on vacation, kids are in summer camp, things like that,” said Kerri McCoy, vice president of Polk Pride.

According to McCoy, Superintendent Frederick Heid said he would be delaying the LGBTQ+ proclamation until at least October.

“We’re going to celebrate in June no matter what and then we’re going to celebrate with the school board in October so we’re going to get two months,” said McCoy.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Polk County Public Schools said there is not a clear process in place to approve proclamations.

“The superintendent is recommending to board members that we postpone this proclamation, until we create a formal process so that we are equitable and consistent in how we review proclamations submitted by the community,” wrote spokesperson Kyle Kennedy in a statement to News Channel 8.

This comes one week after Polk County commissioners rejected Polk Pride’s LGBTQ+ proclamation.

Three commissioners, Neil Combee, Bill Braswell and Rick Wilson, objected to the proclamation.

“I think it’s horrible. You have constituents who are in the LGBTQ community. Whether you agree with it or not, that is not why you were hired to do this job. It wasn’t for your personal beliefs,” said McCoy.

Commissioners George Lindsey and Martha Santiago did not object.

Citizens Defending Freedom, a conservative group that has advocated for library book reviews, supports the county commissioners’ decision to reject the proclamation.

Members and leaders from Citizens Defending Freedom and pro-LGBTQ+ advocates are expected to address the Polk County School Board Tuesday evening.

Citizens Defending Freedom has directed its supporters to pray at Pride Month events in June.

“Citizens Defending Freedom is calling for peaceful prayer in the face of flamboyant gay pride activists,” reads a statement from the group.

McCoy expects a larger turnout than ever at Saturday’s Pride in the Park event at Munn Park.

“A lot of Prides have been canceled so I’ve been seeing a lot of chatter about people saying we’re going to Polk, they’re still having theirs so we’re coming,” said McCoy.

Organizers have planned enhanced security at its events in coordination with Lakeland Police.

“Our team has met with event organizers to ensure a safe event for all those in attendance. As with all large events hosted in our City, we will have officers on site should anyone need anything,” said Chief Sam Taylor in a statement.

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