Oak Hills High School closed early as Westboro Baptist Church picketers came to campus

Oak Hills High School closed early as Westboro Baptist Church picketers came to campus
Posted at 7:48 AM, Sep 06, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-06 17:17:53-04

GREEN TOWNSHIP, Ohio -- Oak Hills High School is dismissed students and staff early Wednesday as picketers from the Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church descended on campus to protest a club promoting gay rights.

The church, widely known for waving provocative anti-LGBT signs at soldiers' funerals, called Oak Hills and its Gay-Straight Alliance "a cesspool of lust, frivolity, wanton sin and every manner of evil including pushing sodomy and gender confusion" in a flier on its website.

Students will be released at 1 p.m., before the scheduled protest from 2:15 to 2:45 p.m., according to school spokeswoman Emily Buckley. She declined to provide any further comment. Oak Hills also played host to the group in 2011, when they also stopped at Miami University.

Jeff Brandt, Oak Hills Local School District superintendent, thanked staff, parents and community leaders for their cooperation.

“Today showed our resilience and why Oak Hills is such a special place,” Brandt said. “Our student body is diverse, and we strive to meet the needs of and support all of our students.  When faced with adverse situations like today, our parents and community were supportive of our plan and that the safety and well-being of our children remain top priority.

Oak Hills High School Principal Travis Hunt said the school supports all of its students, including the Gay Straight Alliance Club that was the topic of protest.

Scott Bischoff, Oak Hills school board president, said Oak Hills High School officials are proud to foster a safe and welcoming environment.

”Inclusion, tolerance and respect would seem to be standards to uphold rather than protest,” Bischoff said.

The Green Township Police Department and Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department assisted the school in the students’ early dismissal.

The protestors' busy schedule also includes stops at 3:30 p.m. at the University of Cincinnati to protest its LGBTQ Center and at 4:45 p.m. at the National Baptist Convention, which is gathering this week at the Duke Energy Convention Center Downtown. 

A coalition of organizations have planned counter-protests at each of the three stops, followed by a public meeting called "This is what an activist looks like!" at 7 p.m. at the Newport on the Levee community conference room.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors extremists around the country, has deemed Westboro Baptist Church an anti-gay hate group that has picketed more than 40,000 times since they started in June 1991.