The Loudoun County School Board decided tonight to hold off on any changes to the school system’s equal anti-discrimination policy.
Board members were expected to weigh in on whether “sexual orientation and gender identity” should be added to a list of characteristics protected from discrimination specifically stated in policy.
Chairman Eric Hornberger (Ashburn) first suggested the board delay the much-anticipated vote until school division attorney Stephen DeVita returns from leave. “There’s no rush on this, and I think we need to make sure we do it right, as best as we can,” he said.
Several board members indicated at the Nov. 29 board meeting that they wanted to ask DeVita whether the law allows them to delete the other 11 characteristics that are specified in the policy, in the spirit of dropping labels all together.
Nearly 30 people spoke at tonight’s meeting in support of adding language to specifically protect lesbian, gay, transgender and queer employees and students to policy. Many of the speakers said those labels describe them or their children, and not spelling them out in policy means they are left unprotected.
Jamie Gregg, whose child is transgender, recently met with her school principal. “We were told by the principal as long as we didn’t rock the boat and exercise our rights, all would be fine,” she said. She encouraged the board to include the language in policy to provide guidance in how to treat employees and students who identify as LGBTQ. “Without a policy, these students, administrators and teachers have nothing to use as guidance. It seems they are making things up as they go.”
A handful of people spoke in support of keeping the policy language as is, but they did not receive a warm response from the crowd.
Meg Killgannon and Bethany Kozme, both from Fairfax County, told the board they were providing voices from the future. They were told ahead of Fairfax County Public Schools’ decision last year to add sexual orientation and gender identity to its anti-discrimination policy that it would better protect students. But, they said, it has actually caused harm.
“I beg you not to pass this,” Kozme shouted, adding that she is a victim of sexual assault. “All are equal except girls who don’t want to have a bisexual boy in their shower or locker room. … Do you really want to enable threats like this?”
A few in the audience hissed at the two women on their way back to their seats.
The earliest the School Board will take a vote on the policy is after the new year, at its next regular meeting Jan. 10.