In the past, Pittsburgh Public Schools have organized teams to run in a one-mile race the day before the Pittsburgh Marathon.
Last month, Pittsburgh Marathon organizers announced that Chick-fil-A would be the title sponsor of the Kids Marathon. The one-mile race will be named after the fast-food franchise.
But some Pittsburgh Public Schools board members say they oppose the sponsorship because of Chick-fil-A’s stance on gay rights.
Executives of the company have openly opposed same-sex marriage and have donated to organizations with similar beliefs.
In 2016, the board unanimously approved a Transgender and Gender Expansive Students policy that allows students to use pronouns, names and bathrooms they identify with. Students’ gender identity and expression are also protected under Title 9.
During a meeting on Wednesday, district solicitor Ira Weiss said a resolution will be voted on at next week’s board meeting that opposes the sponsor of the Kids Marathon and prohibits any official district participation in the 2019 Kids Marathon and Kids of Steel program.
“Nothing in this resolution is intended to interfere with an individual employee’s right or the rights of students and their families to participate in these programs and races on an individual basis unrelated to the District or the District schools,” the resolution states.
Some board members including Regina Holley, say the corporation’s beliefs contradict district’s values.
“Our policy is very firm. We believe in the equity and the support of all of our children,” she said.
More than 1,100 people have signed an online petition addressed to Patrice Matamoros, the CEO of the Pittsburgh Marathon, rejecting the partnership as, “damaging, and offensive." The petition was created by Jodi Hirsh, a co-founder of Sequal Consulting, a communications firm that has worked with organizations like Great Public Schools.
Members of Great Public Schools have in the past urged the Pittsburgh School Board to pass anti-discrimination policies.
“Children should not be asked to run under the banner of a company that believes their sexual orientation and gender identity is something that can be cured or healed. Children should not have to support corporate bodies who want to erase them or their family members,” the petition reads.
School board member Terry Kennedy says she signed a petition asking organizers to end the new relationship with Chick-fil-A. She says it’s important that kids feel safe.
“They need to feel welcomed, they need to feel inclusive. I’m hoping that the children’s marathon actually listens to everybody who has signed this petition.”
Allison Corbett, director of marketing and communications for the Pittsburgh Marathon, declined to comment on the resolution. A statement from organizers said the group “strives to be inclusive of any and all members of the Pittsburgh community, and we have and will continue to be accepting of any individual or family who wants to participate in our events.”
“This partnership with Chick-fil-A Pittsburgh will help us ensure even more children in southwestern Pennsylvania can learn and share in our love of running,” the statement reads.
School board member Kevin Carter on Wednesday said he was concerned the resolution directed specifically at the marathon sponsor has the potential to create a slippery slope.
“I’ll be interested to see how this is worded in regards to our participation with corporations that share different political ideologies than we do,” Carter said.
Board member Lynda Wrenn said this organization directly contradicts district policies.
“If another organization does come forward that does not embrace all of our students, I would feel the same way that this resolution should be applied to that as well,” she said.