You don’t know me, but you may have heard about my bulletin board.

I’m a teacher at Hurricane High School, and last month I created a display to show support for the LGBTQ students at my school. It wasn’t the first bulletin board like this that I have created, but it definitely received more attention than any of the others.

At my school, we believe all students deserve to be treated fairly and with respect, which is why it was surprising to me that some might take the intended message of love, support, and kindness for all as something negative.

It was not intended to be political or anti-religious. In fact, some materials were donated by Saint Timothy’s Episcopal Church.

It was a simple message encouraging our students to be kind to all. I firmly believe that supporting LGBTQ students and protecting them from bullying and harassment, as well as any other group that is often targeted, is my job.

My job is to discourage, prevent, and report bullying for all differentiating characteristics that may motivate bullying. The West Virginia Department of Education includes sexual orientation in its list of differentiating characteristics, defined in Policy 4373.

As a teacher, I encounter students from all walks of life. I get to celebrate with students on their good days, and I’m there with a listening ear on their bad ones. I love living in West Virginia, and I would love to see all my students grow up loving to live here, too.

If we want to hold on to the next generation of Mountaineers, we need to make sure that everyone feels welcome. That means we finally need to live up to the motto that “Mountaineers are always free” and ensure our laws protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations.

It’s especially important that we speak out about this issue now. On Oct. 8, the Supreme Court of the United States will hear three cases that will determine whether existing federal law protects LGBTQ people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

I’m proud to join a growing chorus of voices that is speaking out on this important issue. The Supreme Court must affirm that all LGBTQ people should be able to work hard and support themselves and their families without fear of harassment or discrimination at work. My students deserve to live in a world where they are evaluated on their talents, not who they love or who they are.

But no matter how the Supreme Court rules, we have more work to do to ensure our children can live in a world free from discrimination. That’s why we need our state legislators to finally pass the West Virginia Fairness Act, a bill that would provide lasting protections for LGBTQ people in our state. As parents, we all want our kids to have a fair chance in life. At the end of the day, we want our kids to be happy and healthy. That’s why I support protecting LGBTQ people, like my students, from discrimination in their daily lives.

LGBTQ people are our friends, family members, parishioners, and neighbors. And they’re my students. They live in every community across West Virginia and across America.

They deserve to have a government that allows them equal opportunity and protects them from discrimination. I will be watching the Supreme Court on Oct. 8, and I encourage all of my fellow teachers who care about their students to join me in supporting dignity and respect for all.

Jill Sergent teaches environmental science, earth and space science, and forensic science at Hurricane High School. She lives in Milton.

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