Why doesn’t DISD’s proposed new anti-bullying policy specifically protect LGBT students?

Edwin Flores

Via Unfair Park, we noticed that the Dallas Independent School District’s board of trustees is considering a new anti-bullying policy.

Which makes sense in light of all the recent bullying-related suicides across the country. DISD Trustee Edwin Flores tells Unfair Park that the district needs to make its policies more specific and comprehensive. What doesn’t make sense, though, is the fact that nowhere in the proposed policy does DISD spell out the types of bullying that will be prohibited, such as bullying based on actual or perceived sexual orientation, and bullying based on gender identity and/or expression. In short, the proposed new policy, as written, DOES NOT specifically protect LGBT students.

If trustees truly want to be more specific and comprehensive — rather than just trying to score a few political points — they need to spell out what types of bullying will be prohibited. After all, it’s legal to fire someone for being in gay in Texas precisely because sexual orientation isn’t included in state employment law. Likewise, the absence of sexual orientation from DISD’s anti-bullying policy could be construed to mean that it’s OK to bully someone for being gay.

DISD has a nondiscrimination policy, passed in the 1990s, that includes sexual orientation BUT NOT gender identity, which explains why the district can so openly discriminate against a transgender girl who wants to run for homecoming queen. The nondiscrimination policy passed in the 1990s is non-inclusive of transgender people, and Andy Moreno is in some ways paying for it today.

The LGBT community shouldn’t allow DISD to put yet another non-inclusive policy on the books. How many more gay teen suicides will it take before the district addresses the real causes?

Trustees are set to discuss the proposed policy during their regular meeting, at 11:30 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 14 in the board room at 3700 Ross Ave. in Dallas. There will be an opportunity for public comments at the start of the meeting. Also, contact info for DISD trustees is available here.

—  John Wright

WATCH: N. Dallas High School doesn’t want you to know if trans student won homecoming vote

North Dallas High School isn’t releasing the results of the vote for homecoming queen, saying the information is confidential. So we have no way of knowing for sure whether transgender student Andy Moreno had enough votes to be a finalist for homecoming queen. But Andy’s running mate on the ballot, her MTF transgender friend, is one of three finalists for homecoming king. So it’s likely that Andy was also one of the top three vote-getters, but Principal Dinnah Escanilla is stubbornly sticking to her terrible decision not to allow Andy to run for queen. What’s worse, the Dallas Independent School District continues to allow Escanilla’s blatant discrimination, making us wonder what would happen if the principal required the homecoming queen to be of a certain race.

Fox 4 has been following this story closely, and it’s been the No. 1 most read article on their site both last week and today. But why does Fox 4 reporter Sophia Reza suddenly begin referring to Andy as a “he” and “him” halfway through her report, almost as though she’s mimicking students who do the same thing? And why does anchor Heather Hays seem to have such a hard time understanding the simple fact that Andy identifies as a girl, not a boy?

Andy, who has a new hair-do and looks stunningly beautiful in the interview, says she plans to talk to the principal about the homecoming vote, but as of now, she has no plans to sue despite being approached by some lawyers. She’ll be attending the homecoming dance in a dress and heels this weekend, which Hays also seems worried about. Hays asks whether the school has a dress code — such as one prohibiting low-cut dresses — that would also bar Andy from wearing a dress at all.

“Well then they should have less of a problem with me coming in a low-cut dress, because I’m sorry, but what’s going to pop out of my top?” Moreno responds.

You’ve gotta absolutely love this girl.

—  John Wright

BREAKING: Transgender girl not a finalist for homecoming queen despite enough votes

SISTERLY SUPPORT | Andy Moreno, left, has her family — including sister Daisy Moreno, right — and her friends backing her up in her bid to be the 2010 homecoming queen at North Dallas High. (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)
Andy Moreno, left, and her sister Daisy Moreno

Trangender student Andy Moreno wasn’t among the three finalists for homecoming queen at North Dallas High School announced Monday, according to her sister, Daisy Moreno.

Daisy Moreno told Instant Tea that according to poll watchers and friends on the counting committee, Andy received more votes than at least one of the three finalists. However, based on the principal’s previous decision, school officials didn’t allow votes for Andy to count.

Another transgender youth who also identifies as female was nominated for homecoming king and won, Daisy Moreno said. The school allowed the other youth to run for king because she was born male. Students will choose the homecoming king and queen from among the finalists on Friday, Oct. 15.

Queer LiberAction is reportedly planning a protest of Andy’s exclusion from the ballot.

The Canadian Broadcasting Company saw the story about Andy’s homecoming bid on Dallas Voice’s website and interviewed her Monday afternoon. The report is scheduled to run on NPR in the United States.

It’s unclear whether Andy would have a winning case if she brought legal action against the school or the district, according to Ken Upton, a senior staff attorney at Lambda Legal in Dallas.

Upton said recent federal court rulings have supported students’ right to dress consistently with their gender identity in other contexts, but he couldn’t recall one that dealt specifically with homecoming. In Indiana, for example, a school district recently changed its policies and settled a case brought by a trans student who wasn’t allowed to wear female attire to the prom.

“In this type of a situation, there would probably be some federal arguments you could make,” Upton said. “It would depend a lot on the circumstances of the homecoming event, and whether it was truly just extracurricular or whether it was related to the curriculum of the school. But as a general rule, the federal law has been in some cases protective of students who kind of buck the gender norms or bend the molds and administrators don’t like it.

“I think it’s something we’re seeing more and more of, because students are increasingly becoming comfortable in their own skin in situations where five or 10 years ago, they would have been scared to death to be themselves,” he said.

Upton added that regardless of the legal implications, he doesn’t understand the school’s motivation.

“What’s the harm?” Upton said. “Especially in the context of proms or homecoming, I always wonder, what really is the objection? And that’s the question that I’ve never gotten a satisfactory answer to. You [the school district] might win a lawsuit, but why would you care, and why would you expend so much energy on something like this? You’ve got bigger problems.”

Online editor John Wright contributed to this article.

—  David Taffet

Genderqueer student Skye Newkirk among candidates for homecoming king at TCU

Skye Newkirk

We’ll have more on Andy Moreno — the transgender girl who’s reportedly been told she can’t run for homecoming queen at North Dallas High School — in Friday’s Voice.

But for now we wanted to note that Skye Newkirk, a genderqueer student at Texas Christian University, is apparently running for homecoming king. Genderqueer is a catch-all term for gender identities other than male or female.

Newkirk declined to comment for this story because she said homecoming king candidates are barred from promoting their campaigns anywhere except on Facebook, which is where we learned about it.

Anyhow, it looks like the first round of voting for TCU homecoming king got under way today and will continue until midnight tonight. Then there’ll be more interviews Oct. 14 before final voting on Oct. 20 and 21. Voting is open only to TCU students.

If Newkirk wins, it will be interesting to see how the school handles it. If you’ll remember, she was at the center of a major flap last year over a gay dorm at TCU.

The winner will be announced at halftime of TCU’s home football game on Oct. 23 — when the Horned Frogs’ take on Air Force.

—  John Wright

WATCH: N. Dallas High School bars transgender girl from running for homecoming queen

A male-to-female transgender student at North Dallas High School says the school’s principal is discriminating against her by barring her from running for homecoming queen, according to a report that aired Wednesday night on Fox 4.

Andy Moreno, an 18-year-old senior, told the station that some friends nominated her for homecoming queen. However, a few days ago, a counselor warned Moreno that some school administrators were opposed to the idea. Moreno says she went to talk to the principal, who told her to run for homecoming king instead.

The Dallas Independent School District says it has no formal policy on the issue, but DISD issued a statement saying: “The district fully supports the decision of the principal at North Dallas High School. It should be noted that the Dallas Independent School District is proud to have one of the most aggressive anti-harassment policies among school districts in the state of Texas.”

Moreno says she doesn’t feel comfortable running for homecoming king because she identifies as a female, and her friends support her.

“I do feel like I’m being harassed and I feel like I’m being discriminated against,” Moreno told Fox 4. “I feel like the principal is embarrassed to have a transgender queen.”

Stay tuned to Instant Tea and Dallas Voice for more on the story.

—  John Wright