It should go without saying that having your private business shared with people you didn’t consent to hearing about it can be upsetting. But imagine having it shared publicly, with the entire town after you took on a prominent role. It would be devastating. Except what happened to Dawn Clements, interim superintendent of Ben Hill County Georgia, was even more upsetting. Someone publicly outed her as gay.
Coming out as part of the LGBTQ+ community is something that someone does on their own time in the way they feel most comfortable. It can take years for someone to build up the courage to do it, and some people never feel comfortable enough to share that part of themselves with the world. But no matter when or if someone comes out, their existence within and outside of the queer community is still valid.
And while many people respect that the decision to come out is deeply personal, not everyone does and Clements was on the receiving end of hateful behavior. According to LGBTQ Nation, Danny Pate wrote the letter outing Clements as gay and sent it to local pastors before the letter began circulating the community. This led to Clements handing in her resignation.
Being a member of the LGBTQ+ community doesn’t make you any less capable of doing your job, so it’s strange that someone would go out of their way to push a competent person out. Clements has worn many hats in the school district, from teacher to principal, according to LGBTQ Nation. She’s more than qualified to hold the position of interim superintendent and her feeling pushed into resigning is heart wrenching.
But the school board wasn’t having any part of her resignation. In fact, when Ben Hill County school board met, they outright rejected the resignation.
“Cheers erupted among hundreds of students and other community members and colleagues who gathered in support,” LGBTQ Nation wrote.
Turns out she had a whole community behind her ready to fight against hatred. Beth McIntyre, an area blueberry farmer told Georgia Public Broadcasting, “When something that hateful and mean-spirited is written about our people, we don’t like it.” With McIntyre knowing Clements since she was a child, it’s not surprising that she’s likely feeling protective.
Clements has been with the school district for 22 years and when the school board met, hundreds of people crowded in to show her support, according to GPB. But if you’re expecting Clements to respond to the upsetting letter and subsequent outpouring of support in a public way – you might just turn blue holding your breath.
“She’s a low-key person. he doesn’t want to be a poster child,” McIntyre explained to GPB that a public comment won’t come.
While the school board rejected Clements’ resignation, she has not returned to her position and its currently being filled by the human resources director with the hopes Clements returns.
“It is very heartening to see a community come out so overwhelmingly in support of someone who simply is just, by all accounts, worthy of doing a good job and should continue to be employed by the school district,” Executive Director Jeff Graham told GPB.
Hopefully, the superintendent returns to her post after taking a moment to herself. It’s clear that the community wants her to continue to fill her seat.