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Prince William Residents See Non-Discrimination Policy Differently

| September 21, 2016 | 0 Comments | Education
Photo by Ashleigh Henegar

Photo by Ashleigh Henegar

With the vote on the amendment to add LGBT people to the non-discrimination policy on the agenda for Prince William School Board, this Wednesday night, residents are split on whether to delay or move ahead.

Willie Deutsch, Coles’ District representative on the school board would like his board to take a step back and delay voting on adding LGBT people to the school’s non-discrimination policy.

Deutsch notes legal battles Fairfax County Public Schools is having over the gender discrimination issue and fears Prince William County Schools will encounter the same difficulty.

In Fairfax, a student and his parents have teamed up with Andrea Lafferty, President of the Traditional Values Coalition, and have gotten  support from Liberty Council, to question the legality of Fairfax’s new regulation in court.

While a state judge ruled against the Liberty Council in February, the Virginia Supreme Court may take up the issue. If it does, that may settle whether Virginia school districts are permitted to add LGBT individuals to their non-discrimination policies, or whether the Dillion Rule prohibits it since the state does not include LGBT people in its discrimination policy.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring issued an opinion, in July, stating that the Dillion Rule does not apply. Those supporting the amendment believe that ruling is sufficient.

However, with impeding litigation in the next county, Deutsch said litigation could be expensive, and he would not want to put PWCS through that. For that reason, he would like to wait for court rulings before the school board votes.

“After the courts settle things, we should take a deliberative approach that involves the community to see how we should respond,” Deutsch said.

However, other community members believe the Prince William School Board Chairman Ryan Sawyers has already compromised on the issue. He has eliminated the most controversial aspect: allowing transgender students to use the bathroom that matches with their gender identity.

Don Shaw, Democrat, who ran for various offices in Prince William, said he believes the issue comes down to discrimination.

“My understanding is [the Fairfax case] goes a little bit further than what Ryan is proposing, which is to add five words to the non-discrimination police.”

Shaw believes Sawyers update the policy so it no longer addressed the most controversial issues

“I think what he’s done is a good compromise. No one should be for discrimination, so I have a hard time understanding why anyone would be against this amendment [to support] teachers and students.”

Shaw is a supportive father and brother of gay men, so he is familiar with many of the struggles homosexuals face. He said while his son can now legally marry to a man,  he still has to worry about keeping employment due to his sexual orientation.

While there are likely thousands of LGBT employees and students at Prince Williams schools, many of them are afraid to speak out on the issue.

“They have either not signed up, or pulled their name from the list, because they’re gay, and if it fails tonight or is delayed – which I consider a fail – it’s because they are afraid of the reprocussions,” Shaw said.

Brian Pace of Equality Prince William notes the issue is “first and foremost about employment.” He said there are people who are afraid to work with PWCS since it does not offer the same protections other local employers do.

“It’s a matter of basic fairness,” Pace said, explaining that the employment issue has gotten lost in conversations about using bathrooms and locker rooms.

However, when it comes to changing the employment protections, Pace said “this is a no brainer.”

Pace disagrees that the policy should be delayed calling it a “stalling technique.”

“It has become socially inappropriate to say- no we shouldn’t have these protections,” Pace said, so instead, people ask to delay the vote.

He said ten years ago, people would have simply said, ‘no’ they do not feel LBGT people deserve the same protections as others.

© 2016, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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