Mich. school’s policy change presents opportunity to revisit transgender homecoming issue in Dallas

Andy Moreno

Remember Andy Moreno, the transgender girl who was denied a chance to run for homecoming queen at North Dallas High School?

Well, not surprisingly, it turns out that North Dallas isn’t the only school in the country that’s had to deal with this issue. But unlike NDHS or DISD, schools in other districts appear to be learning from their mistakes and drafting policies to avoid a repeat of the problem. For example, the NBC affiliate in Grand Rapids, Mich., reported Monday that students at Mona Shores High School will henceforth select a gender-neutral homecoming court:

The change comes about five months after a transgender student wasn’t allowed to run for homecoming king at Mona Shores.

Oakleigh Reed is registered at the school as a girl, but plans to undergo a sex change upon turning 18. Reed identifies as a boy, and students and teachers at Mona Shores recognize Oak that way, as well.

Reed was disqualified from running for homecoming king in September. Since last fall, school officials have been trying to figure out a way to avoid a similar situation from happening again.

The solution?

The juniors and seniors will vote on a gender-neutral prom court this spring. The policy will stand for future homecoming events, as well. There will be two juniors and two seniors on the courts; the sex of the students won’t be considered.

“I’m so glad that the rules have been changed,” Reed said in a news release from the ACLU. “All I wanted was a chance for all students to participate and be heard. Now, my classmates and I can just focus on having a great time at our school dance.”

We’ve contacted Jon Dahlander, a spokesman for the Dallas Independent School District, to find out whether there have been any further discussions about this issue since the Andy Moreno controversy in October. We’ve also left a message with Dinnah Escanilla, the principal at North Dallas High School who told Moreno she couldn’t run for queen because she was born a boy — a decision that the district stood behind.

We’ll let you know what we find out.


—  John Wright

DISD trustee to propose LGBT-inclusive bullying policy, transgender homecoming guidelines

Lew Blackburn

Lew Blackburn, a member of the Dallas Independent School District’s board of trustees, said Monday he plans to propose an anti-bullying policy that includes specific protections for LGBT students.

DISD is already considering a new anti-bullying policy, but as currently written, it doesn’t spell out the categories of students who would be protected. Last week, Resource Center Dallas asked DISD to add protections for specific groups, including sexual orientation and gender identity. Several youth across the nation who were gay or perceived to be gay have committed suicide in response to bullying and harassment in recent weeks.

“The policy that the administration has recommended is the same policy that the Texas Association of School Boards has recommended,” Blackburn told Instant Tea on Monday. “What I’m doing is looking at policies across the nation, not just in Texas. I’m looking for something more wide-ranging.

“I’m still doing some research, and what I’m hoping to do is come back to the administration with a revision to what they have proposed with some additional language that other states are using,” Blackburn said. “I think it’s going to be up for approval next week, but I’m going to try to have it delayed for another month so we can get more language into the policy.”

Blackburn encouraged people in the LGBT community to contact their trustees about the new anti-bullying policy. Contact information for trustees is listed on DISD’s website.

We also asked Blackburn about the recent controversy involving Andy Moreno, the transgender girl who was denied a chance to run for homecoming queen at North Dallas High School.

Blackburn responded that he plans to ask the administration to draft a policy on the subject and bring it to the board of trustees for consideration. He said he’s concerned that in the absence of such a policy, principals at different schools could reach different decisions.

“I would like for us to be consistent district-wide,” Blackburn said. “We need to start talking about it so that we have something in policy before the start of school for next year. It’s new territory for us, and I think we need to take our time and do it right.”

—  John Wright

Scenes from today’s rally outside North Dallas High School in support of Andy Moreno

If you turn on the local TV news tonight, you’ll undoubtedly see coverage of today’s rally outside North Dallas High School in support of Andy Moreno, the transgender girl whose principal decided she wasn’t fit to run for homecoming queen. A dozen or so protesters from Queer LiberAction gathered on a street corner in front of the school at about 3:30 p.m. As the bell rang a few minutes later and students poured down the front steps, QL organizer Elizabeth Pax yelled through a megaphone for those who support Andy to join the protesters. Hundreds of students swarmed the street corner, cheering and chanting as Moreno stood alongside Pax looking on. Crews from several local TV stations, as well as from CNN and MTV News, were on hand. The protesters and students, including Moreno, eventually marched up and down Cole Avenue yelling things like “Who’s queen? Our queen!” as police and school officials watched nearby. We’ll post a full story and video from the rally shortly. More pics below.

UPDATE: We’ve posted our story here.

—  John Wright

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

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