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Ill. County OK's Diversity Training

Ill. County OK's Diversity Training

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The Schuyler County board in west-central Illinois has agreed to mandate diversity training for all county department heads, employees, and board members in response to the sheriff's posting of a homophobic slur on Facebook.

The board approved the training unanimously at its meeting last Thursday after hearing testimony from Anthony Martinez, executive director of the Civil Rights Agenda, an Illinois LGBT group, which included excerpts from a letter written by Sue Hyde, a National Gay and Lesbian Task Force official who grew up in Beardstown, Ill., in Cass County, adjacent to Schuyler.

Both decried Schuyler County sheriff Don Schieferdecker's (pictured) Facebook comment, posted in March, referring to a coworker as a "little fag Jew boy." Schieferdecker claimed the comment was made in jest, and he apologized for it and said he had no animus toward gays or Jews.

Martinez, whose group has called for Schieferdecker's resignation, said the sheriff's Facebook posting is the type of cyber-bullying that has driven some gay teens to suicide. "This is a very sensitive time in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community," he said. "Last September the community experienced nine suicides of lesbian and gay children or those who were perceived to be lesbian or gay due to bullying and cyber-bullying. The tragedy of these suicides brought to light the rampant discrimination and bullying of gay and lesbian people. This is what Sheriff Schieferdecker has done. How many children heard his comments?"

Martinez praised the county board for "their swift action and sensitivity to this matter," adding, "This is an amazing achievement for civil rights in Illinois. To have all of the employees of the entire county going through diversity training, especially in a rural county such as this, will help to create change in every community throughout Schuyler."

He said the Civil Rights Agenda will work with county personnel to assure that the training is properly implemented, and the group will continue to seek Schieferdecker's resignation. It is petitioning for his resignation at https://tinyurl.com/antigaysheriff.

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