LGBT group gets concessions from DISD; needs student help

Posted on 12 Jul 2007 at 8:34pm
By John Wright Staff Writer

LGBT Educational Coalition members say they’ve made a lot of progress over the last several months in their dealings with the Dallas Independent School District.

Among other things, DISD officials have agreed to expand training on LGBT issues; consider allowing access to more LGBT Web sites on the district’s computer system; and include more LGBT books in school libraries, according to the coalition.

Now, members say they need LGBT students, employees and parents to get involved.

“If people do not rise to that occasion, how can we hold the school district accountable?” said coalition member Jay Forte. “They’ve [DISD officials have done it in a shorter time span than we ever thought possible. Now I think it’s time to challenge our community.”

DISD employee Kristine Vowels started the coalition last summer to respond to what members described as widespread anti-LGBT harassment and discrimination in the district. They said the district’s policies prohibiting harassment and discrimination based on sexual orientation were not being properly implemented.

This week, Vowels said it’s frustrating that she sometimes seems like the only employee in the district who is truly out. She said she receives anonymous e-mails from other LGBT employees offering their support.

“Nobody else will step up,” Vowels said. “I can’t get them to come forward.”

Coalition members say the district has responded well to two recent cases involving harassment of LGBT employees. They also say having more LGBT students, employees and parents come out is the only way to ensure DISD follows through with the changes it has agreed to.

The district has identified a point person Title IX and Title VII coordinator Mary McCants to handle complaints of anti-LGBT harassment and discrimination.

Officials also have agreed to more minor changes, such as replacing “father” and “mother” to “parent/guardian” on permission slips to reflect the presence of same-sex families.

Steve Flores, DISD’s chief academic officer for school support services, did not directly confirm some of the changes in a recent e-mail to Dallas Voice. He did, however, indicate the district had been working with the coalition. “These meetings have been very productive and the issues presented have been addressed,” he wrote.

E-mail wright@dallasvoice.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 13, 2007

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