Prince William School Board Makes LBGTQ Students, Staff Protective Class

| June 22, 2017 | 0 Comments | Education

Citizens represent their alliance with LGBTQ community at the June 21, 2017 Prince William County School Board meeting.

After much debate, the Prince William County School Board passed the amendment to its non-discrimination policy, Policy 060, adding the language of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as protective groups.

The vote gave guidance to the superintendent not to change the bathroom and/or locker room policy. In an additional amendment, proposed by Willie Deutsch, it gave guidance to the superintendent that “fundamental rights to privacy should be upheld in implementing this policy.”

The vote broke down 5-3. Known Democrats Chairman Ryan Sawyers, Lillie Jessie (Occoquan), Justin Wilk (Potomac), Loree Williams (Woodbridge) and Diane Raulston (Neabsco) supported the amendment. Shawn Brann (Brentsville), an independent, and Republicans Alyson Satterwhite (Gainesville) and Willie Deutsch (Coles) opposed.

In support of the amendment, Wilk gave a presentation. Looking at all the major school districts across the nation, most of which have adopted similar policies (though some have not), he showed zero attacks by transgender individuals using a bathroom and zero boys dressing up as girls to use bathrooms within a total population of 3.6 million students.

Other school board members talked about how their lives informed them that the amendment is necessary.

Jessie shared an email from a community member, who as a teen was tortured for being gay here in Prince William County.

“They beat me and beat me and beat me and called me a faggot while laying in the mud and they spit on me. Then they tied me up, bound me by my hands and ankles to the back of an ATV and dragged me through the trails,” wrote the man. After that, they tied him to a tree at the corner of Minnieville Road and shot arrows above his head.

“If any of them are out there in positions of power I’m certain that people like me wouldn’t fare too well in the employment space,” wrote the man. “This is one thing policy can help. We don’t ask that you change from being a racist. We don’t ask that you change from being a homophobe. We just ask that you don’t demonstrate it at work.”

Williams said she was shocked that the issue required that much discussion when it is something the national government has done and something Fortune 500 companies have done.

She also explained it is personal for her as a mixed-race person who never felt “at home.”

Williams argued that elected officials have to protect all citizens.

“For me, it’s not about whether you’re gay, you’re a lesbian, you’re transsexual, you’re queer you’re hetero, you’re black, you’re white, you’re Muslim, you’re Christian. It shouldn’t matter to anyone who sits in these seats because you took an oath of public office, period.”

Raulston said she always knew gay people in her family and always knew those who had died of AIDS. While she said she did not encounter much bigotry in her life, as a child she had glass thrown at her for being black.

She explains that living in California, she has a more relaxed point of view.

“California is an interesting place. Generally, we don’t tell others what to do with their lives. We genuinely believe your life is truly yours,” she said.

She felt her vote belong to her.

“Now is the time. It’s a come to Jesus time here. However I vote, it’s my vote. It’s my vote. You can be angry; you can be happy, but it’s mine. I stand for it. You can vote for me. You cannot vote for me. It doesn’t matter.”

The three school board members who opposed the amendment gave practical rather than philosophical or religious reasons. They said the policy change was not accompanied by enough community input or discussion and did not provide enough direction about the necessary changes to regulations that would need to follow.

Brann said the decision was difficult for him personally, as he taught many talented gay students and knows several gay families.

He said that he decided to vote against the measure for a few reasons. One was to respond to the majority of letters he received from his constituents. Another was to respect “due process” as he believes Brentsville school board member, Gil Trenum, who he is filling in for, would do.

Deutsch explained that he felt the discussion on the topic was disappointing. He said he had to walk out of church for hearing that LGBTQ folks should be dealt with the way they might have been 200 years ago. He said on the other side, too many people assumed hate from anyone who was not on board with their progressive views.

He said effective policy making requires understanding the implications, and they should not be like Fairfax, which rushed into the policy and then had to put implementation on pause.

He emphasized that LGBTQ students receive the highest level of concern from the school division, and noted that the ACLU recommended that they would be discriminating if they do not also allow transgender individuals to use the same bathrooms or locker rooms as their gender identity. It also recommended parents not be informed when their children share beds with a transgender student on field trips.

In her speech, Satterwhite said Sawyers never finished the justification form on the policy change, which was required for staff analysis, nor did he add moving forward with adding the task force to the agenda.

She said it would be “irresponsible” to pass the amendment without understanding what it entails. She said some other schools divisions took two years to iron out what the policy meant and what it did not cover.

She asked that if there are problems with harassment that students please report them. “For heaven’s sake, please report it. If we don’t know there is a problem, we can’t address it,” saying she is especially focused on preventing teen suicide.

Satterwhite advocated for many concrete changes that could really affect LGBTQ students such as safe places with counselors and teachers, clubs that support them, and relevant heath curriculum.

She said she will always advocate for kids. She wanted to do this in a way where they could get more of the community to “buy in.”

Sawyers only said he was in full support of the revision.

Slide show photos by Mike Beaty. 

© 2017, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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