EXCLUSIVE: Dallas school board to consider protections for transgender students, employees

Posted on 09 Aug 2011 at 4:14pm
Andy Moreno, a transgender girl, was denied an opportunity to run for homecoming queen at North Dallas High School last year.

The Dallas school board is set to consider a series of policy changes designed to protect transgender students and employees against discrimination and harassment — and to protect LGBT students against potential bullying by teachers.

Among other things, the proposed changes could prevent another controversy like the one that arose last year — when a transgender girl was denied an opportunity to run for homecoming queen at North Dallas High School.

DISD’s board of trustees is scheduled to go over the proposed changes during its briefing session this Thursday, which means they could come up for a final vote next month, according to district spokesman Jon Dahlander.

Rafael McDonnell, a spokesman for Resource Center Dallas, said representatives from his organization have worked with DISD officials over the last several months to craft the proposed policy changes, which grew out of the board’s approval last year of an LGBT-inclusive anti-bullying policy.

Many of the new changes would essentially transfer language from the anti-bullying policy into existing policies related to harassment and discrimination, some of which previously included sexual orientation but not gender identity and expression.

“The original policies did not protect the entire community,” McDonnell said. “We’ve been fortunate here at the Center to advocate for more inclusive policies, first with DART and earlier this year with Dallas County, and now with DISD. All of the community should be protected.”

McDonnell said the proposed amendments to six separate DISD policies (which we’ve posted here, here, here, here, here and here) would establish the following:

• Gender identity and gender expression nondiscrimination protections for students.

• Gender identity and gender expression nondiscrimination protections for staff and teachers.

• Codification of these protections in both the employee standards of conduct (teachers cannot harass students for being LGBT) and the student code of conduct.

• An anti-bullying policy that covers staff and teachers.

If the changes are approved, Dallas ISD would become only the third district out of more than 1,000 in the state to protect students and employees against discrimination based on gender identity and expression, McDonnell said. Fort Worth ISD added trans discrimination protections earlier this year, and Houston ISD is in the process of doing so.

DISD is the second-largest district in the state and 12th-largest in the nation.

Last November, in the midst of a national gay teen suicide crisis, DISD became the first district in Texas to adopt a comprehensive anti-bullying policy that specifically protects LGBT students, but the policy failed to address potential harassment by teachers.

Asked whether he’s confident the new changes will be approved, McDonnell said: “I feel good about it. That’s not to say that I would discourage anyone from our community to call or write in support of these changes. I certainly think some supportive comments always are helpful.”

McDonnell noted that the school board approved the trans-inclusive anti-bullying policy unanimously last year. “They’re familiar with the issue,” he said of trustees.

Contact information for DISD trustees can be found here. Thursday’s briefing session begins at 11:30 a.m. in the board room at DISD headquarters, 3700 Ross Ave.

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