John Gerkhardt, resident of Stroud Township Talks to the board members of Stroudsburg High School.
written by John GerKhardt
My name is John Gerkhardt, a resident of Stroud Township. I attended school in the Stroudsburg Area School District back in the 1960s and 1970’s, Kindergarten through the 9th grade until my family moved from Hamilton to Ross Townships. I subsequently graduated from Pleasant Valley High School. In 1982, we again moved, this time to Cherry Valley in Stroud Township, where I have resided off and on for the last nearly 40 years, returning in 2019 permanently.
I want to express my gratitude and admiration for the students who have addressed the Stroudsburg Area School District school board. They have displayed tremendous courage in informing the school board of the ongoing racism and harassment that exists within our schools. Schools should be a safe place for all our students in order that they achieve their greatest potential. When students don’t feel safe, when they feel that the faculty, administration, and school board don’t hear their voices, or do not seem to inadequately address their concerns, they are unable to attain their greatest success. That does not mean they may not be doing very well in their classwork, or in involvement in school activities. I can personally attest to that. I’ve known since I was about 10 years old that I was gay. Back in the day, I felt I could not say anything to anyone. So, I was completely socially withdrawn, a loner who did very well in school, was in every band possible and was on the yearbook staff. I describe it as being in the sub-basement of the closet. But I was well into my 40’s before I began to find my voice, and to realize because of my late partner Ray’s encouragement and support, that I was NEVER that quiet, hiding behind the curtain kinda guy. But I had lived a life in fear, reinforced by bullying and harassment, and name-calling.
I truly get emotional when I re-read the letter that students and recent alumni wrote back in February – that racism is alive and well at Stroudsburg. And as the LGBTQ students address the board, I again get very emotional. We need to listen to the students, or the banners displayed in our schools proclaiming “Hate Has No Home Here” ring hollow having become empty slogans.
Listen to the students. The time for meaningful action is now.