FWISD adds LGBTs to policy

Tom Anable
Tom Anable

Change includes bullying in anti-harassment rules, specifically lists gender identity, expression in protected classes

TAMMYE NASH  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

The board of the Fort Worth Independent School District this week quietly approved a new anti-bullying policy for employees that specifically includes prohibitions based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

The policy passed as part of the consent agenda after a second reading during the Tuesday night, Jan. 18 school board meeting. Clint Bond, external communications coordinator for the district, said Wednesday, Jan. 19, that a similar policy applying to students will likely be approved in the near future.

“The student policy hasn’t been changed yet, but it is certainly under discussion,” Bond said. “I think that will go forward and probably will include an update in the near future.”

The student policy already includes “sexual orientation” in the enumerated list of protected classes, but not “gender identity or expression.”

School district officials have said in the past that when they amended the policy to include sexual orientation, they believed that phrase also included gender identity.

The new Employee Welfare Freedom From Discrimination, Harassment and Retaliation policy, in essence, amends the previous policy to include specific prohibitions against bullying and to specifically include “gender identity or expression” and “military/veteran status” among the protected classes, Bond said.

It also switches responsibility for administering the policy from the Human Resources department to the new Employee Health and Wellness Department, he said.

Under the policy, the school district is required to “provide training and counseling as needed promote awareness of this policy and the elimination of bullying, harassment, discrimination, or retaliation based on race, ethnicity, religion, gender, disability, age, or sexual orientation, or gender identity and expression, or military/veteran status throughout the district.”

In addition to bullying, the policy prohibits discrimination including harassment, and briefly defines the terms discrimination, harassment and bullying, although it does not include the term “cyberbullying.” Bond said other policies define bullying to include cyberbullying.

The new policy also describes the process for reporting and investigation any such incidents.

Tom Anable, president of Fairness Fort Worth, said this week the new policy “looks to be thorough” and is “a very positive step forward for the employees of the Fort Worth ISD.”

He noted that the new policy has the support of the local teachers union and stressed that the amendments to the policy were pushed by FWISD administrators, not community advocates.

“This has been an administration-led effort, which is an even more positive sign that they are really looking at their policies across the board,” Anable said. “They pretty much initiated this on their own. And I think it is really nice that they took the initiative in this without a lot of outside pushing.”

Anable acknowledged that the decision to add “gender identity and expression” to the FWISD policy was likely a response to a vote by Dallas Independent School District trustees in November to enact a specifically LGBT-inclusive anti-bullying policy.

But he also stressed that Fort Worth was already moving in the right direction before the DISD vote, and that community advocates have not had to push as hard for the changes, as Dallas activists did.

“Yes, this is pretty much a response to what the Dallas school district did, but Fort Worth had already added ‘sexual orientation’ to their policies back in March. When they saw what Dallas did, they went back and checked their policies. And when they realized some of the language was missing, they immediately started the dialog to make the changes they needed to make,” Anable said.

“We have had some nice conversations with people in the administration, but it hasn’t taken us the kind of effort it took in Dallas to get this done,” he said.

Anable said he was pleased to see that the policy change “went through on the consent agenda and there wasn’t a big uproar about it.” But he warned that might not be the case when the board discusses changing the policy relating to students.

“This has been very low-key, without a lot of fuss. But when [anti-gay activists] hear about this, they will probably be watching for the student policy to come up for a vote,” he said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Jan. 21, 2011.

—  John Wright

WATCH: ‘The butt drag’ — legal wrestling move or form of bullying and sexual battery?

Preston Hill, 17, is charged with sexual battery.

A 17-year-old high school wrestler in Clovis, Calif., is charged with sexual battery for executing what experts say is a legal and common maneuver — “the butt drag” — in which you grab the opponent’s butt cheek and insert fingers into the anus to get leverage. The “butt drag” is also known as “checking the oil,” and you can watch some examples in the video below.

As a one-time wrestler in middle school, I can tell you that I never heard of this move, but who knows, maybe it’s something they don’t teach until high school.

Anyhow, 17-year-old Preston Hill’s parents are outraged that their son, a star wrestler who’d been named captain of his team, was expelled from school and charged with a sex crime for executing a move they say his coaches taught him. However, the parents of the unidentified 14-year-old alleged victim claim Preston’s use of the “butt drag” was a form of bullying in retaliation for an earlier encounter.

From the Fresno Bee, which has an extensive story about the controversy (with a hat tip to OutSports):

The boy’s father, Ross Rice, said Preston is a bully who targeted his 14-year-old son because he stood up to Preston in an earlier encounter. Now, Preston’s friends are teasing the boy at school, Rice said. The Bee is not naming Rice’s son because of the allegation that he is the victim of a sex crime.

“Preston took it beyond a simple wrestling move,” Rice said. “He crossed the line.”

The Fresno County District Attorney’s Office has charged Preston with sexual battery. His trial begins Thursday in Fresno County Superior Court.

The case has some scratching their heads.

Former Fresno State coach Dennis DeLiddo said the butt drag is a common move used by wrestlers all the time. “I’ve never heard this move used as being ugly or dirty,” he said.

—  John Wright

Annise Parker tells youth, ‘It Gets Better’

Annise Parker

Houston Mayor Annise Parker’s staff has been encouraging her to do an “It Gets Better” video. She took the opportunity to do so during a presentation at the Houston Holocaust Museum on Tuesday, Nov. 2.

The museum presented her with a Guardian of the Human Spirit Award, a platform for acknowledging dedicated Houstonians who have worked to enhance the lives of others and to better humankind.

On its website, the museum listed among the reasons she was given the award was her expansion of the city’s nondiscrimination policies:

One of her early official acts was to issue one of the most comprehensive non-discrimination orders in the nation. The order prohibits discrimination and/or retaliation on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity at every level of municipal government, including hiring, contracting and/or access to city facilities and programs/activities.

Her acceptance speech includes her thoughts on the recent rash of publicized suicides by teens who had been bullied. Her office noted the lighting that makes Parker look radioactive. Prior to her appearance, the content of the speech changed several times and it wasn’t until the last minute that Parker decided to include the “It Gets Better” piece and asked that it be recorded.

—  David Taffet

El Paso men who were kicked out of taco restaurant for kissing mark Stonewall anniversary by suing the city

Five men who were kicked out of Chico’s Taco’s in El Paso after two of them kissed last year have filed a lawsuit against the city, a security company and the restaurant, The El Paso Times reports. If you’ll remember, El Paso police threatened to charge the men under Texas’ sodomy statute, which was declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003.

Plaintiff Carlos Diaz de Leon and lawyers with the Paso del Norte Civil Rights Project announced the lawsuit at a news conference in Central El Paso.

Diaz De Leon, 32, said the other four plaintiffs are identified only as “John Does” because they fear threats or retaliation.

“I’m doing this because I want to see change, a lot of change,” Diaz De Leon said. “I would like for people to be aware of their rights, and basically, I want equality for everyone.”

Briana Stone, a lawyer and director of the Paso del Norte Civil Rights Project, said the date the suit was filed coincides with the June 28, 1969, anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion.

—  John Wright