Dallas County Schools adds LGBT rights to nondiscrimination policy

Posted on 05 Sep 2014 at 8:50am

DCS board members say new policies impact 3,000 employees and 440,000-plus students

James Russell  |  Staff Writer

Narvaez.Omar

Omar Narvaez

Dallas County Schools voted unanimously at its Aug. 29 board meeting to revise its nondiscrimination policy to include protections for LGBT employees and students, officials with the district announced.

The new rules apply to both DCS’ 3000 employees and to the 440,000-plus students it serves, officials said.

DCS was the last countywide elected body to include LGBT protections in its nondiscrimination ordinance.

DCS provides transportation both in Dallas County and around the state. It also provides student safety programs, technology solutions, online instructional services, psychology services and risk management solutions.

Officials said the new policy takes “the broadest comprehensive approach” by prohibiting “all discrimination, including harassment, on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, sex, age, military status, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, genetic information or on any other basis that is prohibited by applicable law and these policies.”

The policy also expressly prohibits retaliation against anyone who complains that they have suffered such discrimination.

“We are committed to dealing with all our employees and students on a fair and equal basis. There are no excuses,” said DCS Board President Larry Duncan.

He also commended Trustee Omar Narvaez for leading the effort. “When we were looking to fill a vacancy on the board, we were also talking about updating these policies. After being given a list of candidates, the board unanimously chose Narvaez, whom Duncan knew from Stonewall Democrats.

“He was the ideal person to lead the efforts” that would revise the district’s policy.

Narvaez, Lambda Legal’s community educator, proposed his organization review DCS’ policies and procedures and make recommendations for any changes.

With in a month, DCS officials had agreed and the process had begun, Narvaez said.

All of Lambda Legal’s recommendations are included in the policy revisions, he said.

The board and the district were supportive from the beginning, he said.

“Everything was positive on the board. Human resources staff members were excited,” he said.

He said the changes bring the district up to par by barring discrimination against a wider group of people and modernizing the district’s complaint procedures to guarantee due process.

Narvaez said he sought a comprehensive review instead of just asking for new nondiscrimination protections because “you can’t hire the employee and not protect them if they are harassed. So I said, ‘Let’s fix it all.’”

DCS has had an anti-bullying policy on the same comprehensive basis since 2011. It served as a framework for the revisions.

Even though he also explored options to provide domestic partner benefits to district retirees, DCS acknowledged in a statement that the policy is “not enforceable on employee health care and retirement benefits because DCS is bound by Texas law.”

Neither the state’s insurance for public employees and the Teachers Retirement System recognize same-sex couples.

He hopes that changes soon.

Following the bill’s passage, he said, “Today, we took a vital step forward in our continued commitment to creating an inclusive, safe and respectful workplace.”
Duncan agreed.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 5, 2014.

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