Board votes to include gender identity and expression in harassment, retaliation and discrimination policies
DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer
Dallas Independent School District added protections for students based on gender identity and expression during its regular board meeting on Thursday, Aug. 25.
The six items expanding protection were initially part of the consent agenda. The items were pulled from the consent before the meeting for a separate vote and then all but two later returned to the consent agenda and passed unanimously.
Only one speaker addressed the issue in the comment period before the vote.
After talking about having been bullied in school, Omar Jimenez told the board, “Treat everyone the way you want to be treated.”
The vote was delayed several hours by a discussion on redistricting of board trustee districts.
Two items initially on the consent agenda were held because they related to teacher contracts, with no controversy involving the gender identity protections that were included.
The discussion and vote on those items came after press time and will be reported on line.
The new policies relate to discrimination, retaliation and harassment by faculty and staff against students and against other faculty and staff.
Two weeks ago, the board discussed the entries on this week’s consent agenda. Rafael McDonnell, strategic communications and programs manager for Resource Center Dallas, attended the meeting and said they were reviewed with little discussion and no dissent.
Last fall, board members discussed gender identity and expression during the debate on the comprehensive new anti-bullying policy.
“We did a good job of educating them on the topic then,” McDonnell said.
He said these changes brought the harassment, retaliation and discrimination policies in line with the policies passed to combat bullying.
“They wanted to make the language match the anti-bullying policy,” McDonnell said.
The only questions asked were about a provision on genetic information required by the federal government.
Federal law requires genetic privacy. The law was passed to protect people from insurance companies requiring disclosure of genetic testing to find predisposition to certain diseases.
But it also protects a transgender person from having an employer release genetic information about his or her birth gender that might differ from presentation.
DISD became the third school district in Texas to include gender identity and expression in its harassment policies after Houston and Fort Worth ISDs. McDonnell said other districts were waiting to hear what changes in policy the legislature would require in the session that ended in May.
He suggested those districts look at the DISD policy, which he called the most comprehensive in protecting students, faculty and staff.
“Now the focus is how the policy is being used,” McDonnell said. “Are the students protected?”
McDonnell also said that he participated in a training session with DISD security officers. The session was lively with a lot of questions, he said, which he believes means they are serious about stopping bullying and harassment in Dallas schools.
When Dallas schools opened this week, all students were given a code of conduct that contains the new anti-bullying policy. Each student had to return a signed form that they read and understood the policy.
The anti-bullying bill that was passed by the Legislature in the spring goes into effect on Sept. 1. In Dallas, the policies are already in place.