16-year-old anti-discrimination policy not enforced; committee forms to demand its implementation
A teacher uses class time to talk about how specific LGBT students are going to hell.
A security guard calls an LGBT student a “faggot” within earshot of school administrators, who do nothing about it. The student subsequently drops out.
An LGBT teacher is reprimanded for using his school’s video system to disseminate information about the Gay-Straight Alliance.
These are just a few examples of a big problem within the Dallas Independent School District, according to LGBT district employees and members of a citizens committee.
Kristine Vowels is a DISD administration employee who started the committee to address the problem last summer. Vowels said the committee is demanding that the district enforce its 16-year-old policy prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation by conducting staff training and hiring a director of LGBT initiatives.
Committee members plan to meet with district officials Tuesday, March 20.
“This [anti-discrimination] policy that the Dallas Independent School District has means nothing without implementation,” said Vowels, who recently completed a doctoral dissertation related to the subject.
The committee is also suggesting that the district adopt a curriculum that’s more LGBT-inclusive; extend benefits to the same-sex partners of employees; and create an environment that’s more sensitive to transgender students when it comes to names, pronouns, bathrooms and locker rooms.
Ivette Cruz Weis, a spokeswoman for the district, said officials will listen to the committee’s concerns and address them as necessary.
“The district does not promote discrimination against anyone regardless of what type of discrimination it is,” Weis said.
District offices were closed for spring break Thursday, March 15, and Weis said no other officials were available for comment.
Another member of the committee, Youth First Texas co-founder Bob Miskinnis, said the issue is critical because dropout and suicide rates for LGBT youth are three times as high as for their straight peers. He also said nowadays, many LGBT youth are coming out in their early teens.
“I think our [the LGBT] community hasn’t made it the issue it needs to be made, and if we don’t, the youth aren’t strong enough to do it,” Miskinnis said. “I think we have to stand up for them.”
Miskinnis said he is “pretty optimistic” that the district will take action.
“I don’t think that in the long run, they can do nothing,” he said.
Lambda Legal Regional Director Dennis Coleman, a member of the committee, said DISD is not legally required to implement the policy.
However, if it does not, it runs the risk of lawsuits from those who are discriminated against, he said. “The school district has been very lucky,” Coleman said.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 16, 2007