LGBT advocates give DISD an ‘F’ on implementing anti-bullying policy

Cox, Narvaez say some administrators are telling employees not to use online reporting system

DISD

CALLING OUT DISD | Cece Cox with Resource Center Dallas and Omar Narvaez with Lambda Legal this week urged DISD board members to force employees to step up implementation of the district’s anti-bullying policy. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Resource Center Dallas Executive Director and CEO Cece Cox this week accused Dallas Independent School District officials of instructing principals to ignore the reporting requirement in the school district’s anti-bullying policy.

Speaking at a DISD board meeting Thursday morning, Dec. 1, Cox called board members that adopted the policy visionary, but gave the district a grade of “F” in implementing the policy.

Lambda Legal Community Educator Omar Narvaez also spoke at the Dec. 1 board meeting.
DISD passed the anti-bullying policy in November 2010, soon after a string of teens across the country committed suicide after having been repeatedly bullied at school. The Dallas policy was implemented more than six months before the Texas Legislature passed and Gov. Rick Perry signed a new statewide anti-bullying law.

Narvaez said that the Dallas policy was cited repeatedly in Austin as the anti-bullying bill made its way through the Legislature.

But he said that a year after the Dallas policy was adopted, only about a third of principals have been trained on the computer-based reporting system, that most schools do not have the system in place and even more do not know how to use it.

Narvaez urged DISD to step up its implementation.

Cox said that many schools only sporadically adhere to key provisions of the policy —  enforcement and reporting.

A year after adopting the policy, Cox said, “I’m sorry to report the wheels have fallen off. Your grade is ‘F.’”

She said that there was a deliberate attempt by some DISD administrators to stop the implementation of the anti-bullying policy. “My agency has received reports from [DISD] employees,” Cox said.

“They have been told not to use the online reporting system.”

She warned the board of the serious consequences of ignoring bullying in schools: “You will have blood on your hands.”

Narvaez also praised the policy that passed unanimously a year ago, noting that it is being used as “a blueprint across the state.”

But, he added, two-thirds of DISD principals still need to be trained on the reporting system.

“It’s time we forget about politics,” he said.

Narvaez told the board several stories of DISD students having been bullied for a variety of reasons beyond sexual orientation and reminded them that the policy would keep all students safer.

Narvaez said that while some administrators fear that repeated reports of bullying would be counted against a school, instead, schools with the highest rates of reporting should be seen as having principals doing their jobs diligently and that schools that don’t report incidents of bullying should be seen as having principals ignoring the problem.

After the two spoke during the brief public comments section of the board meeting, DISD trustee Nancy Bingham spoke privately with Cox. Bingham, an early supporter of the anti-bullying policy, said the board would be getting a briefing.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 2, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

WATCH: Seagoville student endures classroom beatdown — as teacher watches

As the Texas Legislature continues to stall in taking action on the numerous anti-bullying bills introduced this session, this story posted Monday on WFAA.com proves once again that our children really aren’t safe in school — sometimes even when there is a teacher standing right by them.

Michael Milczanowksi

WFAA.com reports that Seagoville High School sophomore Michael Milczanowksi was attacked and beaten up by a fellow student in his geometry class as the teacher, who isn’t identified, stands by and watches without even trying to intervene. At least not physically. Other students videotaped the attack as it happened, and you can watch that video below.

Dallas Independent School District officials have said the incident is being investigated, but the teacher’s union is supporting the teacher. Alliance/AFT representative Rena Honeo told WFAA: “Teachers have intervened in the past. They have been injured. They have not been able to return to work. They have been reprimanded for intervening. So there is a huge question mark as to what’s truly appropriate.”

Meanwhile Michael Milczanowksi has left Seagoville High. The report doesn’t say if he is going to school somewhere else. The report also doesn’t say why the student attacked Michael, who said he had felt threatened at school for some time, and it doesn’t mention bullying, either.

I am not saying this has anything to do with LGBT issues in any way, shape or form. But I think this is obviously about one student being bullied — physically bullied — and about a teacher standing by and letting it happen. If this isn’t proof enough for lawmakers that we need some kind of legislation to protect our children, then I don’t know what it would take.

—  admin

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

Lawsuit: High school softball coaches in E. Texas outed lesbian teen to her mom

Two high school softball coaches in East Texas are accused of maliciously outing a sophomore player as a lesbian to her mother, then kicking her off the team.

And Kilgore Independent School District officials are accused of defending the coaches’ actions by arguing that they were “legally obligated” to disclose the girl’s sexual orientation to her parents.

The student, identified as S.W., and her mother have filed a federal lawsuit against the coaches, the school district, and an assistant athletic director, accusing them of violating her privacy. The student and her mother are represented by the Austin-based Texas Civil Rights Project in the lawsuit filed Dec. 20 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.

The lawsuit alleges that the two coaches at Kilgore High School, Rhonda Fletcher and Cassandra Newell, locked S.W. in a locker room in March 2009 and threatened and interrogated her. The coaches allegedly were angry because S.W. was dating a girl whom Newell may have previously dated.

“Fletcher asked S.W. if she was gay, and accused her of having a sexual relationship with another girl. She also claimed that S.W. was spreading gossip about this other girl being ‘Coach Newell’s girlfriend,’” the lawsuit states. “The girl to whom Fletcher was referring had interacted with Newell at a number of school events. At the time of Fletcher and Newell’s confrontation, S.W. was dating that girl.”

—  John Wright