The vote on a controversial proposed LGBT anti-discrimination policy change to a North Texas school district’s existing policy was postponed Thursday night.
Keller Independent School District (ISD) Superintendent Dr. Randy Reid announced only hours before the vote that the proposed LGBT student and staff anti-discrimination policy changes were pulled from the board meeting agenda.
In a statement, Reid said: “The issue has become extremely polarizing, with the great potential of creating feelings of winners and losers.”
He added that many in the community contacted the district about the proposed language changes to their anti-discrimination policies, saying, “There have been many passionate pleas on both sides of the issue from parents, community members, and current and former students.”
Still, more than 200 community members including parents and students came to the Dallas-Ft. Worth area school board meeting. Many came just to express their thoughts and concerns on the proposed changes. The proposed policy would add new language to the district’s anti-discrimination and anti-bullying policies and include protections specifically on the basis “of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.”
Fifteen speakers voiced their opinions during the public comments portion of the meeting. Most suggested Keller ISD needed to work on enforcing its existing anti-bullying policy before embracing new ones.
Keller resident, Joel Starnes was one to address the school board. He questioned why the district’s robust anti-bullying policies were not protecting these students.
A parent and a church deacon, Starnes also reached out to the LGBT students in the audience. He said he did not want them to see them bullied. He said he did not want to see anyone bullied.
Starnes was of the majority opinion that when one group has “elevated special rights,” then other “different” people might not be covered under those “special protections” and it can result in new problems or even, litigation.
Later, Starnes told Breitbart Texas, “We need to be changing hearts not policy” to end the bullying.
Other speakers also raised concerns about the unintended consequences of introducing new policies, including transgender students requiring alternative bathroom accommodations.
Keller school officials said the policies would not change practices related to gender-specific restrooms, locker rooms or sex education materials to address rumors that were prevalent on social media this week, according to the Ft. Worth-Star Telegram.
The intense debate surrounding the LGBT proposed policy changes sources back to last Spring when high school sophomore Casey Akres felt the district discriminated against her because high school administrators would not allow her lesbian “promposal.” Keller ISD said the real issue was that promposals were not allowed to take place on campus, CBS-DFW reported.
School district officials stated: “Promposals in general are not permitted, regardless of gender, as they disrupt the learning environment. Any that have occurred previously were without permission,” according to KDFW-4, the Fox affiliate.
Akres took exception to the district’s anti-discrimination policy. It did not mention sexual orientation. Keller ISD does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, national origin, disability, or any other basis prohibited by law that negatively affects the student, according to the 2014-15 Student Handbook, which also lists criteria for sexual and gender-based harassment.
Likewise, the Code of Conduct Assurance of Nondiscrimination adds to the above that the district does not discriminate in providing education services, activities, and programs, including vocational ones. They also give equal access to the youth groups and are in accordance with a handful of federal protections.
“We just want to be treated equally like everybody else,” said Akers at the board meeting, according to CBS DFW.
In his statement, Reid cited one of the district’s newer anti-bullying programs underway, R.O.C.K. (Reaching Out with Character and Kindness). He called it a good start, saying it “has already had a positive impact on many of our campuses.”
Reid said that in the coming weeks the district plans to hold townhall meetings to educate parents and teachers about these potential policy changes. It is not known if and/or when the LGBT policy changes will resurface for a vote.
The superintendent’s complete statement is on the Keller ISD website.
Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom