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

Students for a Democratic Society forms at El Centro

STUDENT RADICALS | Deante Toombs, left, Stephen Benavides, standing, and Brashad Lewis helped revive the ’60s anti-war group SDS on college campuses in the Dallas area. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

LGBT rights are now a central issue for the anti-Vietnam War group revived in 2006

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Students at El Centro College and UT Arlington have organized new chapters of Students for a Democratic Society, and the group has popped up on as many as 90 college campuses around the country.

The reincarnation of SDS, a major force in the antiwar movement during the Vietnam era, began in 2006.

At the Equality March for LGBT rights held in Downtown Dallas on June 25, members of SDS marched for gay rights and spoke at the rally at the JFK Memorial. All of the SDS members participating were straight.

Brashad Lewis does public relations for the local groups and plans to start a group on a Tarrant County College campus that he’ll attend in the fall.

He said the group hopes to bring the national convention of SDS chapters to Dallas or Arlington in October. They’ve submitted their bids and will hear back soon.

But organizers say that should the Dallas bid win, one minor obstacle stands in the way: The El Centro group is currently without a faculty advisor.

Stephen Benavides, a graduate student at UTA, said that he was at El Centro and a Dallas County Community College officer motioned for him to come over and then assaulted him with a police baton.

Benavides said that a complaint has been filed.

Then four days later, the faculty advisor to the group abruptly quit.

Deante Toombs, an El Centro student, said that to reserve rooms for the conference, the group needs to be recognized, but finding another faculty advisor should be no problem.

Benavides said that the advisor at UTA is a former SDS member from the ’60s with tenure and has no fear of reprisals.

But he said that the incident at El Centro shows that the group is being followed and members being targeted despite the peaceful history of SDS.

In another incident, SDS organized a protest of cuts to teaching staff and financial aid and increased class size. Protesters planned to meet at Rosa Parks Plaza near El Centro. Rather than the peaceful demonstration planned, marchers were met with DART police on bicycles blocking entrance to the square. Marchers used streets and sidewalks instead and paraded on downtown streets to protest the cuts.

Toombs said that LGBT equality is a central issue for SDS.

“SDS stands in solidarity with issues affecting minorities, gays, women,” Toombs said.

“It’s 2011,” Benavides said. “Are we still having problems with this now?”

He said that’s why the group participated in the Equality March and may march in the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade.
Toombs said that the group is being targeted differently than it was in the ’60s. Then the FBI infiltrated with agitators to get information while trying to break the groups up through dissention.

Today, they’re being threatened with prosecution under the Patriot Act as if they’re a terrorist threat.

In addition to local campus issues, the original SDS organized nationally to protest the Vietnam War. Benavides said that local issues — LGBT rights, cuts in school funding — are important to SDS groups across the country, but the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and now Libya are why they came together.

Lewis said the attacks from campus police, reportedly instigated by federal authorities that want SDS disbanded, are using the divide and conquer method.

Toombs said that the group at El Centro has protested peacefully and exercised its right of free speech.

What has surprised him is the power the name still holds 40 years after the original group officially folded.

SDS is the model for all types of student groups based on causes that followed over succeeding decades — women’s rights, LGBT rights, AIDS, civil rights, environmental issues. These groups worked on a shoestring budget and used direct action to demand certain results. Without Facebook or the Internet to interact, SDS held annual national conventions to meet each other and exchange ideas.

At a convention in 1969, SDS officially ended, but a number of local campus groups lasted into the early to mid ’70s to continue protesting the war and to work on local campus issues.

Best known among early SDS organizers was Tom Hayden. Hayden later went on to serve in the California Legislature and ran for governor and mayor of Los Angeles and was a U.S. senator. But he is still best known as the first husband of Jane Fonda. At the time, Fonda was known more for her antiwar activism rather than her acting.

Bernadette Dohrn, another well-known SDS member, founded the radical wing known as the Weather Underground with her husband Bill Ayers. Dohrn is now an associate professor of law at Northwestern University School of Law, but during the early ’70s, she was on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list.

Still, most of the actions of the group were peaceful. They staged draft-card burnings to protest the war. They did sit-ins to take over campus administration buildings. They marched and rallied.

Benavides said that if they took over a campus building today, they’d send in the SWAT team.

But Benavides, Toombs and Lewis have fashioned their campus groups on the model of the peaceful wing of the group.

“Education is a right,” Benavides said.

Toombs said that discrimination can’t be tolerated.

But none proposed any violent action to achieve their goals.

On July 27, SDS is sponsoring a conference on Islamophobia and the New McCarthyism at UTA. They’re working on a women’s conference in August and hope to host the national convention in October. David Taffet, who wrote this article, was a member of SDS at SUNY Albany in the early 1970s.

—  John Wright

‘Bent’ at El Centro this weekend

A break from the Foote

Is the Horton Foote Festival getting a little much but you still want to head out to the theater? The El Centro College Actor’s Workshop presents Martin Sherman’s Bent about gay men in the Holocaust. Yes, some pretty heavy stuff, but the story is both tough and tender.

Bent follows the life of Max, a promiscuous gay man in 1930′s Berlin. When a one night stand goes terribly wrong, Max finds himself running from the S.S. and eventually imprisoned in Dachau concentration camp.”

The production is directed by Daniel Scott Cates.

DEETS: El Centro College Arena Theatre,801 Main St. Through Sunday. Free.

—  Rich Lopez

Drawing Dallas • 12.17.10

By MARK STOKES  | Illustrator mark@markdrawsfunny.com

Skaterboi Anthony Padilla is a dream within a dream

Jungle bookish

Name and age: Anthony Padilla, 23

Spotted at: Mockingbird Station

Occupation: Pool cleaner/student

Hey, good lookin’: This raven-tressed Leo could have been pulled right out of an Edgar Allen Poe tale, with his smoldering good looks and piercing eyes. A native Dallasite, Anthony is a team rider for Index Skateboard Shop at Mockingbird Station. Anthony is also a student at El Centro College, studying science with an eye for a career in physics. His interests are painting animals in acrylic, playing keyboard and guitar.

Call him Mowgli: A free-spirited loner, Anthony spends the majority of his time outside skateboarding (he’s known for his skill at doing a “backside nose blunt,” a particularly difficult board feat), climbing and motorcycling. Any spare time he has, you’ll find him restoring his 1975 Yamaha 250-RD. Friends affectionately call him Mowgli, from the Kipling stories (and Disney film) The Jungle Book.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 17, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas