Barrington residents discuss how to support the LGBTQ community after vandalism cases
Spurred by separate vandalism cases, a panel discussion Tuesday night in Barrington explored ways to make the village and the Northwest suburbs overall more welcoming to the LGBTQ community.
About 75 people filled a Barrington Area Library meeting room for the forum, which followed concerns at a Barrington village board meeting last month after police received a report of vandalism targeting the home of a gay high school student's home on May 31. Barrington police said it's being investigated as a potential hate crime.
Scott Nelles, the Barrington High School junior's father, reported to police that several hundred plastic forks were placed randomly on his family's South Cook Street lawn and a for-sale sign left against a tree near the street. The sign had a toll-free suicide prevention hotline number, an obscenity and "KYS" -- a known acronym for "kill yourself."
Kicking off Tuesday's panel discussion was the girl's mother, Sharon Nelles. Nelles said her 16-year-old daughter was harassed on social media a week before the vandalism -- the first incident of harassment for the couple's daughter since she came out as a lesbian at the end of seventh grade. She said there has been an outpouring of support from Barrington residents and people elsewhere since the vandalism.
"People started showing up in my front yard," she said. "Moms walking with their daughters, hand in hand, bringing flowers, bringing cards, sending balloons."
The forum also followed a case in late 2018 in which a lesbian couple reported the theft of a pride flag from the backyard of their home in the Fox Point subdivision. Barrington police said a U.S. flag replaced the pride flag at the couple's house.
No arrests have been made in either vandalism case.
Among the seven panelists Tuesday were Barrington Trustee Emily Young, former library board Trustee Barbara Pintozzi, Equality of Illinois Director of Civic Engagement Anthony Galloway, and Kevin Morrison, an Elk Grove Village Democrat and the first openly gay member of the Cook County Board.
Pintozzi said she's trying to create a more welcoming atmosphere in the village for the LGBTQ community, in part by starting Barrington Pride. Before losing re-election to her library board seat in April, she pushed for the first LGBTQ book club at the library for young adults that recognized Pride Month in June.
Groups such as Barrington Pride should involve the entire community, Pintozzi said.
"In addition to what traditional pride groups do, it might be a good idea if this pride group could do maybe some fundraising, like a donation to a food pantry in the name of the pride group, or maybe have a Halloween decoration contest for the entire area just to show that they're just people," she said.
Morrison said while there seems to be more progress in LGBTQ acceptance in the Northwest suburbs, he's willing to speak at schools in his district about how he was bullied when he was a child.
"I want to make sure that I'm trying to be as positive of an influence for individuals who are receiving the bullying or the individuals who might want to go on to be the perpetrators of bullying," Morrison said.
"And, hopefully, we can see an end to those kind of attacks in our school systems in the future."