LETTER TO THE EDITOR: ‘Time to Lead’ Update Policy 060

| June 20, 2017 | 0 Comments | Education

Image of Don Shaw from his Facebook page.

A Time to Lead: Update Policy 060

Opinion Piece by Don Shaw

Nine months ago, the Prince William County School Board considered updating the PWCS Nondiscrimination Policy, otherwise known as 060. The update in question would have added four words to the policy: “gender identity, sexual orientation” and would have made clear that Prince William County Schools do not tolerate discrimination against anyone on these bases.

Passions ran high and the School Board chose to defer the vote until the final meeting of the school year, which is Wednesday, June 21st. The members wanted to wait for a better time, to wait and see what others would do. But when is a “better time”? In his letter from a Birmingham jail dated April 16, 1963, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote “this ‘wait’ has almost always meant ‘never’ … ‘justice too long delayed is justice denied.’ Members of the School Board, your time for choosing has arrived. There is no “better time” and the vote you cast on this issue will set the tone for the rest of your tenure.

Prince William County Schools employ approximately 10,700 people and are responsible for educating over 88,000 students. That means that there are, statistically speaking, over 3,300 faculty, staff, and students who would be directly and positively affected by this policy update with no negative impact to others. Three thousand three hundred individuals!

Studies have shown that nearly a fifth of students are physically assaulted because of their sexual orientation. In PWCS, this means that approximately 600 students could already have been victims of physical assault. Although writing about a different topic, one School Board member, Willie Deutsch, stated that “threats of violence against innocent people will not be tolerated.” One would hope that Mr. Deutsch would feel similarly about LGBT students. It’s time to put actions to words and show ALL within the purview of PWCS that everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.

The naysayers state that there are no documented cases in PWCS of harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identity, so there is no problem. This argument is flawed and relies on a logical fallacy (argumentum ad ignorantiam). We need not search too hard to find an example of how this logical fallacy works. During dismissal on June 9, 2017, faculty and staff took extra precautions at Chris Yung Elementary School in Bristow because someone reported seeing a mountain lion near the school. Just as stating before then that there are no mountain lions in Prince William County because nobody had seen one here was a logically incorrect conclusion, the reliance upon the lack of documented cases of harassment based on LGBT status is also incorrect. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

The lack of documentation highlights only that there is no policy protecting members of the LGBT community, not that the harassment does not exist. Current cases of harassment cannot be tracked based on LGBT status because there are currently no protections for this community in Prince William County Schools. Many cases go unreported. We don’t know how many faculty, staff, and students have failed to report because they fear repercussions. Furthermore, if the LGBT community has nothing to fear, then why are those who disagree with the policy change so vocal in their presentation against the LGBT community?

This policy update has nothing to do with bathrooms and everything to do with bullying. Bullies can be anyone and can be anywhere. Bullies can be parents, teachers, students, administrators, staff, community members, even board members. Their actions, whether mental, physical, or emotional, are abuse and must not be tolerated. Just like the faculty and staff at Chris Yung Elementary had an obligation to protect their students from a reported mountain lion, the School Board must protect all students and staff from bullies regardless of the reason. Updating Policy 060 brings us one step closer to realizing the goal of protecting some of the most vulnerable in our society.

Members of the Prince William County School Board, the vote you cast whether in favor or against the update Policy 060 should not be a political stunt designed to curry favor with your base, but a decision to do what is inherently right. Paraphrasing Mayor of New Orleans, Mitch Landrieu, we elected you (the School Board) to do the right thing, not the easy thing. The time has come for you to show us what that looks like. School Board member Shawn Brann encouraged us that, “as citizens of Prince William County, you should demand better leadership than what you’re getting.” I wholeheartedly agree. Members of the Prince William County School Board, now is your time for choosing and the entire county is watching to see what you will do. Update PWCS Policy 060 to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” and show us what true leadership looks like.

Don Shaw is a Democrat who has run for local office in Prince William County. In this piece, he is expressing his opinion, which does not represent any group, organization or political party. 

The opinions expressed in the above article represent that of its author and not necessarily that of Bristow Beat, its owners, staff or sponsors. 


© 2017, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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