Lake Forest High School Principal Erin Lenart is strongly criticizing the characterization made in a posted social media video that a room in the school was being used as a “secretive and exclusive LGBTQ+ gathering place.”
The video, which has been viewed approximately 1,400 times on YouTube, was later incorporated into a story posted by the Lake County Gazette, a news organization which is published by the Local Government Information Services, and funded “in part, by advocacy groups who share our beliefs in limited government,” according to its website.
The Gazette story claims the room is allegedly being used as a “gay room,” where students and staff have been meeting in private during school hours.
The 30-second video shows someone entering a room, posing questions about what is taking place there and being told it is a study hall. The student then leaves the room and the video ends. It is not clear when the video was recorded.
Lenart, in an email addressed to “students, staff, and families,” wrote that the use of the room was not accurately portrayed.
“The video depicts one of several publicly posted and optional counseling sessions that are aligned to our One Lake Forest Vision Statement,” she wrote. “These meetings offer discussion of a variety of topics including grief and trauma, are open to all students, and are not associated with any particular extracurricular clubs or activities.
“This type of social media noise is distractive at best and divisive at worst,” she continued. “I am saddened that adults have once again taken to the keyboard and social media to portray our beautiful high school community, committed staff, and students in the manner in which they have over the last couple of days. The repercussions of the online activity have led to a feeling of anger, disrespect, uneasiness, and fear among many of our students. This is unacceptable.”
The video was tweeted out — and later deleted — by Frank McCormick, the executive director of Parents Care a Lake Forest-based organization. He said he tweeted out the video independent of his work with Parents Care.
McCormick, a Lake Forest resident and former Waukegan High School teacher, said the video was sent to him anonymously and he initially chose to post it.
“That is part of what I do,” said McCormick, who labels himself a conservative and frequently posts his thoughts on race, homosexuality and school boards. “I provide a glimpse inside public schools that people don’t normally see.”
In explaining why he eventually removed the tweet, McCormick said, “The student who filmed it was getting a lot of negative feedback. Some of his friends reached out to me and asked me to delete it.”
McCormick said the video raised “red flags,” based on his experience as a teacher.
“You want to avoid creating the conditions that a bad actor or predator could exploit,” he said.
In responding to Lenart’s letter, McCormick said, “I found it insulting that she would imply this was out of some sort of bigotry. She has absolutely no basis for making that claim.
“That is complete speculation,” he continued. “I think there is always this impulse that people’s intentions come from a place of hate without justification, and I just think it is something that has a chilling effect on speech.”
Kate Zimlich, a Lake Forest High School parent, said she was disappointed the video with what she believes was the intention of creating controversy and hurting people.
“From my perspective, the student took the video and gave it to one or more adults, and then gave it to the person who posted it,” she said. “Regardless of your position on the social work groups, and how they run and when they meet, a student’s privacy was violated, and there should be consequences for everyone involved.”