By Andrea Cordle
Grove City Editor
Grove City officials want the community to be as welcoming and inclusive as possible.
To help achieve that goal, council approved a resolution to form the Grove City Community Diversity Advisory Task Force at its Feb. 22 meeting.
According to the legislation, the mayor and council desire that all individuals who live, work, visit, or conduct business in Grove City should feel welcome, and everyone is afforded the same respect and opportunity. The goal of the task force is to encourage a community dialogue regarding all aspects of diversity, including but not limited to race, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, status as a veteran or disabled veteran, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.
Several residents attended the meeting to speak in favor of the task force.
Geri Huygen, a member of the counseling staff at Grove City High School, read letters from three students who have not always felt welcomed by the community. One transgender student reported being harassed at school and within the city. Another student reported that they have lunch food thrown at them daily.
“The city has a lot to work on,” wrote one student.
“There is a lack of support for the LGBTQ community,” said another student.
Huygen praised the students for showing courage in writing those letters to be read to the community.
Grove City resident Jeffrey Tadlock spoke about his trans daughter and how people in the community interact with her. He also spoke about a friend of his who moved to Grove City from another country and left because he did not feel welcomed.
“This is a positive step for Grove City,” said Tadlock. “It’s worth investigating to see what we can do to make things better.”
According to the legislation, there will be 12 members on the task force. Six of those members will be selected applicants, one will be appointed by the Grove City Area Chamber of Commerce, one appointed from the Heart of Grove City, and one chosen by Visit Grove City. In addition, the Grove City Parks and Recreation Department will select one senior member and two youth members. The task force will also include one ex officio member, which will be councilwoman Christine Houk, the originator of the legislation.
The task force will explore opportunities to drive community conversations related to understanding different viewpoints and experiences; evaluate city policies, procedures, and practices relative to the city’s support of commitment to diversity and inclusion; suggest educational and informational programming; and address long-term community goals.
The Grove City Community Diversity Advisory Task Force would give a presentation to council after one year. It will also provide council with an update on its progress semiannually.
Aaron Schlabach, former councilman and Grove City resident addressed council regarding the task force and shared that he was viciously bullied in school and even had his life threatened.
“I do not believe anyone should be mistreated for any way they are,” said Schlabach.
However, the former councilman said that while the legislation is well-intentioned, he believes that it could have unintended consequences. He questioned what laws council would expect to pass and said some may see the task force as a group, not as individuals.
Council members expressed unanimous support for the task force.
“This is not the answer to everything, but it starts a conversation,” said Ted Berry.
Councilman Mark Sigrist said, “This is a small step in uplifting human dignity and engaging a more diverse group of citizens to help shape our city for the future.”
The city will have more information on the Grove City Community Diversity Advisory Task Force, including the application process, on its website in the coming weeks. Visit grovecityohio.gov.