“Add the Words” to Coeur d’Alene Schools

At the March 3 District 271 school board meeting, I asked the Board to consider adding protections for sexual orientation and gender identity in its official nondiscrimination and anti-harassment policies. The Board thanked me for my proposal and referred the issue to the school district attorney. There have been letters to the editor since that meeting, accusing certain of the school board members of having some sort of secret alliance with the LGBT community. Of course, that is simply incorrect. However, the Board has been in the spotlight over the issue as a result.

At the April 14, 2014, school board meeting, the school district’s attorney will issue his legal opinion as to whether the school board must “add the words”  and even if it is not mandatory, whether the board has the option of adding the words if it chooses. I predict the attorney will advise the Board that the policy changes are a discretionary matter; that is, the Board may choose to expand the policies, but it is not legally required to do so.

I expect that the Board will, at the same meeting, schedule public hearings on the issue. These will likely be in late April or in May. It is at these hearings that we will need a lot of supportive testimony about why the school district ought to explicitly forbid discrimination or harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity. (Note that the anti-bullying policy already prohibits bullying on the basis of sexual orientation, but it is silent as to gender identity.)

Submitted by local attorney Susan Moss. She lives with her wife and two daughters in Coeur d’Alene.

Now, this seems simple enough, right? The existing policy, found here, already prohibits discrimination of students based upon sexual orientation, among other things.

Harassment – Defined to include verbal, written, graphic, or physical conduct relating to but not limited to gender or sexual orientation, race, color, national origin, age, religious beliefs, or ethnic background.

The point here is to take an extra step to make some of the most vulnerable kids– the ones struggling with their own biology– feel safe in (what shouldn’t be but is) a harsh environment. Schools. But some people are missing the point.

In a letter to the editor submitted to the Coeur d’Alene Press, resident Gary Finney warns of the “hidden agenda” of the LGBT community to allow anyone to use any rest or locker room the individual sees fit. He also fears that adding the two words gender identity to the existing anti-harassment policy would allow sex-integrated sports (i.e. boys playing field hockey or girls playing football). Which apparently is a travesty to the sacred traditional American gender roles.

Anyway, it’s not about that. Don’t let that letter or any other that talks about it fool you into thinking there is some homosexual-led conspiracy to infiltrate the bathrooms. We just want trans-identifying kids to feel empowered and secure. Those two little words can go a long way to do that. Send in your letters of support to be published in the paper here.

We’ll keep you posted on the exact date of the public hearing for which supporters and speakers will be needed.

photo by Tre Vision Photography

photo by Tre Vision Photography

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