Nebraska school board amends anti-discrimination policy
HASTINGS, Neb. (AP) — A Nebraska school board has decided to leave the words “gender” and “sexual orientation” out of anti-discrimination policies for students and staff.
The Hastings Board of Education made the decision Monday after spending months considering potential updates for the district’s policies on discrimination, harassment and retaliation. The board ultimately opted to add “other protected statuses” to the local school district’s anti-discrimination policy, The Hastings Tribune reported .
The policy currently includes protections “on the basis of sex, disability, race, color, religion, veteran status, national or ethnic origin, age, marital status, pregnancy or childbirth or related medical condition.”
About 50 people attended the Monday board meeting to discuss the issue, including former Hastings High School student Jake Rundle. The 2004 graduate said he came out as gay during his senior year and said having an anti-discrimination policy that includes sexual orientation would help students feel accepted.
“I want you to remember you have an inclusive policy, yes, but you are excluding someone who is already in a minority ... (this policy is) giving a student who might be afraid to go to school a little peace of mind that everything will be OK because I’m OK,” he said.
But resident James Carson told board members that he’d prefer that the anti-discrimination policy take on similar language to the district’s separate anti-bullying policy, which doesn’t have specific groups or classifications.
“The best policy is to be inclusive, not create separate classes,” he said.
Board member Bob Sullivan, who is also an attorney, said the additional language would open up the district to lawsuits. Sullivan also said he believes parents should handle issues of sexual orientation and gender at home.
“The parents have the greatest influence on their children, and we have to let them take care of how they teach their children things like sexual orientation, gender identity, sex, marriage and love and those types of things,” he said.
Board member Laura Schneider said those who support the gender and sexual orientation protections should petition lawmakers to make changes at the state or federal level.
Information from: Hastings Tribune, http://www.hastingstribune.com