Gap partners with El Centro to offer curriculum

There’s nothing particularly gay about this item, except that one of El Centro College’s gay professors alerted us to it. And as part of Dallas County Community College, El Centro added protections based on gender identity to its nondiscrimination policies earlier this year. And it does concern San Francisco-based, but not-really-gay The Gap and El Centro’s not-really-gay but probably-mostly-gay fashion department.

Gap Inc. has chosen El Centro as one of 15 community colleges across the country to participate in its “Gap for Community Colleges” program. The program is part of President Barack Obama’s “Skills for America’s Future” initiative.

Beginning this week, El Centro College fashion marketing students will have access to the training curriculum given to Gap store managers covering a variety of workplace skills. This is the first time the program has been offered outside the company and will be useful to students not seeking a career with Gap Inc., including topics such as interview skills and resume writing as well as workplace skills such as managing people and setting priorities.

 

 

—  David Taffet

Sam Houston State adds LGBT protections

Sam Houston State University, a member of the Texas State University System, has added sexual orientation and gender identity to its Equal Employment Opportunity policy.

The school, situated in Huntsville, is the first public college outside of a major urban area in Texas to add the protections. The revised policy applies to employment, admission, and campus life and activities.

According to the school’s press release, other schools in the TSU system will vote on a similar change. One other school — Texas State University — already has similar policies. That school is in San Marcos, between Austin and San Antonio. Sul Ross and Lamar are other schools in the TSU system.

Once other schools pass the policy, the Board of Regents is expected change the policy system-wide.

SHSU was founded in 1879 and had 17,618 registered students in the fall 2011 semester. Among the school’s top-ranked programs are theater and dance — housed in a 100,000-square-foot performing arts center.

Dallas County Community College, the state’s largest school, added gender identity to its non-discrimination policies on Jan. 3.

Read SHSU’s full press release here.

—  David Taffet

DCCCD adds trans protections

LGBT community activists celebrate after DCCCD adopted new nondiscrimination policies on Tuesday

The Dallas County Community College District trustees voted during their monthly meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 3, to add gender identity and expression to its nondiscrimination policies.

Three policies were amended by the board. The first covers employees. Two others protect students.

The student policies added the wording into the school’s nondiscrimination policy and the student code of conduct.

After five speakers addressed the board and another five were scheduled to speak, board Chair Jerry Prater told the crowd that attended to support the policy, “We have gotten your message loud and clear.”

The protections passed by a vote of four to one. Trustee Bill Metzger was the only one to vote against the changes. Two trustees were absent, but would have probably voted for passage, according to staff who had worked on the measures.

DCCCD becomes the third community college in the state after San Jacinto College and Houston Community College to add trans protections. The Dallas school is the largest college in the state.

See this Friday’s Dallas Voice for additional coverage.

—  David Taffet

Dallas County Community College District to schedule vote on transgender protections

Dr. Wright Lassiter

After calls and letters from individuals and encouragement from Resource Center Dallas, Dallas County Community College District has apparently decided to put an amendment to its nondiscrimination policy on the January agenda. But in an email, DCCCD President Wright Lassiter said as far as the board is concerned, nondiscrimination is already policy.

The DCCCD board is considering adding gender identity and expression to its official written policy. Sexual orientation is already included.

RCD Communications and Advocacy Manager Rafael McDonnell sent Lassiter a letter that pointed out three places in the community college’s policies where wording would need to change to make all nondiscrimination wording parallel. Erin Roberts, a member of RCD’s transgender group GEAR, wrote to Lassiter that she has taken several courses at different DCCCD campuses.

While DCCCD legal counsel Robert J. Young originally said the college district would be covered under the city’s nondiscrimination policy that includes gender identity, Roberts pointed out the “government entity exemption” written into the ordinance.

“As a former white male who lived unknowingly in a world of white male privilege even though I came from very humble origins, my eyes have been opened to many different human right struggles directly because of my personal experience with discrimination on the basis that I am transgender,” Roberts wrote. “I am not less capable than before I came out. I am not less experienced. I do have much less opportunity to participate in the workforce. I am not hideous, outlandish, distracting, attention-seeking or disrespectful, but i am different. I am not able or willing to hide. The world will never get better for any of us that may be different in some way if we hide or accept that some how our differences not based on our performance, but based on perceptions of us should be allowed to justify preventing us from participating fully and contributing based on our abilities and talents to the work force and society at large.”

Lassiter replied to both Roberts and McDonnell that non-discrimination based on gender identity is the policy at the trustee level.

“I wanted you to know that I am encouraging openness and fairness in our policy language,” he wrote. “I have asked the board to take the time to give this full consideration and be in a position to make their position a matter of policy at the January board meeting. The messages that are being received are ‘heard.’ Throughout my tenure in the district I have endeavored to be as inclusive as possible — I hope this little message is helpful to you and others.”

In a message to McDonnell later in the week, Lassiter said he wouldn’t be able to get the matter on the December agenda but hoped to have it added to the January meeting.

—  David Taffet

DCCCD: No protections for gender identity

Community college district officials say trans people are already covered under sexual orientation; RCD encourages supporters to contact board members

Rafael_McDonnell

Rafael McDonnell

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Resource Center Dallas is calling on LGBT equality advocates and allies to contact Dallas County Community College District officials and ask them to schedule a vote during the DCCCD board’s Dec. 6 meeting on adding protections based on gender identity to the district’s nondiscrimination policies.

RCD Communications and Advocacy Manager Rafael McDonnell said the center decided to issue the call this week after district board members said they would not vote to add gender identity to the policy. DCCD’s legal counsel, Robert J. Young, notified McDonnell of the decision in a letter on Monday, Nov. 7.

McDonnell had been in contact with DCCCD board and staff since spring, encouraging them to add gender identity and expression to the community college district’s nondiscrimination policy. Sexual orientation is already included.

In his letter, Young wrote that the board does not believe it is necessary to change the district’s nondiscrimination policy because “gender identity” is included under “sexual orientation,” and because the city of Dallas ordinances include transgender protections.

“Since our current non-discrimination policy states that it protects ‘any other category protected by law,’ it is clear that ‘gender identity’ is already covered by virtue of the city of Dallas ordinance, which prohibits discrimination in employment based on sexual orientation (defined by the city to include gender identity),” he wrote.

DCCCD’s headquarters building is on South Lamar Street, in The Cedars section of Dallas. Two campuses — El Centro College and Mountain View College — and three branch campuses are also in the city.

But five of the seven DCCCD colleges and three branch campuses are in suburban cities not covered by any city of Dallas ordinance. Richland College, the school with the largest enrollment, is in Richardson.

According to DCCCD District Director of Media Relations Ann Hatch, if someone were to file a complaint, that complaint would be filed with the district in the city of Dallas. She said that the district complies with city of Dallas ordinances.

The city ordinance, however, specifically excludes any governmental body — which would include DCCCD — from the nondiscrimination policy.

Gender identity is included in the city definition of sexual orientation. When the ordinance was passed, then-Mayor Laura Miller had the definition expanded to include gender identity rather than delaying the vote with a discussion of transgender issues.

In 2002, when the ordinance passed, it was more common to include gender identity and expression in the definition of sexual orientation. Today, these categories are usually listed separately in policies seeking to prohibit all forms of discrimination.

In an email, Hatch said that Young realized his reference to the city ordinance was incorrect.

“However, the DCCCD Board of Trustees does not believe that it is necessary to change the district’s nondiscrimination policy, which does include sexual orientation,” Hatch wrote. “If someone at any of our colleges and locations should choose to file a complaint concerning gender identity, that person could reference sexual orientation, which is among the categories listed in our nondiscrimination policy.”

McDonnell provided the DCCCD board with written policies of other governmental bodies including the cities of Dallas and Fort Worth, Dallas Area Rapid Transit, DFW International Airport and Dallas County. All include gender identity. Dallas County also includes gender expression.

Only the city of Dallas policy places gender identity into its definition of sexual orientation.

“Sexual orientation and gender identity are two different things, which was spelled out to them in our initial meetings during the summer and they are willfully choosing to ignore it,” said McDonnell.

He said that DCCCD’s inclusion of gender identity under sexual orientation was using wording that is 10 years old.

But from the letter, there is a clear message of no intention to discriminate.

In his letter to McDonnell, Young said the district is a “welcoming place for all its employees and a good place to work,” and cited anecdotal evidence to back up the claim. He said that a long-term employee transitioned while on the job and felt positive about the help and support she received.

But McDonnell insisted that isn’t enough.

“If they don’t discriminate, he needs to say it in a policy,” McDonnell said. “It’s not good enough to say it in a letter.”

When the district is taken as a whole, DCCCD is the largest college in Texas with 72,000 students and 7,200 full- and part-time faculty, staff and administrators. The school is spread across Dallas County on seven main campuses and six community branches.

Texas has 55 community colleges or community college districts. Only six of those include sexual orientation in their nondiscrimination policies.

Pasedena-based San Jacinto College, with three campuses east of Houston, is the only two-year school in Texas to offer protection that specifies gender identity and expression.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 11, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

DCCCD decides protecting gender identity is unnecessary

Rafael_McDonnell

Rafael McDonnell

Dallas County Community College District legal counsel Robert Young has notified Resource Center Dallas‘ Communications and Advocacy Manager Rafael McDonnell today in a letter that the DCCCD has board decided not to add gender identity to its nondiscrimination policy.

Young said the board made its decision based on its belief that transgender people are already protected. He used the anecdotal evidence that one person transitioned without problem while employed with DCCCD, adding that they employee felt positive about the support she received from the district.

Young said that current policy already protects transgender employees and students because it currently includes “any other category protected by law.” And he pointed out that a Dallas city ordinance prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and that the city’s definition of sexual orientation includes gender identity.

However, five of the seven DCCCD schools are in suburban cities, not in Dallas, and are therefore not covered by city of Dallas ordinances.

McDonnell is encouraging people to respond to DCCCD’s legal department. More about the community college decision in Friday’s paper.

—  David Taffet

DCCCD considering transgender policy

College district would become second in state to add protections

DCCCD2

PROTECTING EVERYONE | A DCCCD student studies on a bench outside El Centro Community College in Downtown Dallas. El Centro is part of the Dallas County Community College District, which is considering adding protections for transgenders to its nondiscrimination policy. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

On Tuesday, Oct. 4, Dallas County Community College District board of trustees was briefed in closed-door session about adding gender identity and expression to its nondiscrimination policy.

The district already has protection based on sexual orientation.

If the board votes to approve the change, DCCCD would become only the second community college in Texas to add gender identity and expression to its nondiscrimination policies. San Jacinto College, with three campuses based in Pasadena, east of Houston, is currently the only two-year college in the state to offer those protections.

Resource Center Dallas Communications and Advocacy Manager Rafael McDonnell said he has been talking to DCCCD Trustee Diana Flores since spring about adding transgender protections, and had hope the changes would be in place for the fall semester.

But the issue was not added to the agenda at the September meeting as hoped. Staff told McDonnell they expected it to be on the consent agenda at the October meeting. Instead the board received a briefing.

McDonnell said he didn’t think the policy would have a problem passing, and that the briefing was about how to implement the change.

He said he hopes the policy would come up at next month’s meeting and be in place by the start of the spring semester.

DCCCD is the largest school in Texas, with 72,000 students in seven colleges on 13 campuses. The school employs 7,200 full- and part-time faculty, staff and administrators.

The district is governed by a board of trustees who are elected for six-year terms and serve without compensation.

McDonnell said Flores, one of the seven elected trustees, has been the champion of adding transgender protections.

The University of Texas at Austin website lists 55 community colleges or community college districts in Texas. Just six of those districts have nondiscrimination policies that specifically include sexual orientation.

In addition to DCCCD and San Jacinto College, Tarrant County College, Austin Community College, Houston Community College and Lone Star College System in North Harris and Montgomery Counties north of Houston offer protection based on sexual orientation.

Collin County Gay and Lesbian Alliance has approached Collin County Community College in the past about adding LGBT protections to its nondiscrimination policy, but the school has not done so.

With the growing LGBT population in the suburbs north of Dallas, McDonnell thought that school would be one of the next to add protections.

Other two-year schools in the area include Corsicana-based Navarro College with campuses in Waxahachie and Midlothian and Gainesville-based North Central Texas College with campuses in Flower Mound and Corinth. Neither has policies specifically protecting LGBT students, faculty and staff.

Among its student activities, Navarro College lists P.R.I.S.M. (GSA). That gay-straight alliance group formed last year. The listing links to no additional web page. With its active LGBT student group, McDonnell thought Navarro College might be among the next schools approached to add protections.

Out at Collin is an LGBT group at CCCC and under that organization’s membership requirements, a nondiscrimination policy includes sexual orientation and gender identity.

That is the only student group that does include such a policy, however.

Although the CCCC listing links to a page, the words gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender are not found on there. Only goals of the group, such as “Empower the misunderstood and give a voice to the under-represented” and “Bring awareness and dispel stereotypes to the larger community” are listed.

NCTC has fewer student activities than the other area colleges and lists no organized LGBT group. But most of the 13 “Official Student Organizations” listed on the Corinth and

Flower Mound campuses are curriculum-related. The only social groups are Christians In Action and Latino Leadership Council.

Although a written nondiscrimination policy doesn’t insure equal treatment, it does give an employee or student some recourse.

Protections in the Tarrant County College policies were added after instructor Jackie Gill was fired because of her perceived sexual orientation. She filed a lawsuit against the school on Sept. 7. Lambda Legal is representing her in the case.

Lambda Legal staff attorney Ken Upton said that the school has retained an attorney and has another month to answer the charges. He said that they will have 90 days to six months to do discovery.

“Then I suspect they’ll order alternative dispute resolution,” he said, meaning mediation or arbitration.

Upton said Gill’s case is interesting because she was fired before TCC had sexual orientation in its nondiscrimination policy.

He said the school would have to show that they have a legitimate reason to dismiss faculty based on their sexual orientation. But if they did have a legitimate reason, why would they have added the category to their nondiscrimination policy?

“Private companies have great policies that are not enforceable in court,” Upton said. But a government agency that has a nondiscrimination policy covering sexual orientation would have to show a compelling interest to fire gays and lesbians.

Despite her treatment by one faculty member, Gill “wants to teach and she loves the school,” Upton said. “They have five campuses and they have a demand. They’re looking for instructors.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 7, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas