School Board Members Share Opinions on Revision to Non-Discrimination Policy

| June 20, 2017 | 0 Comments | Education

Loree Williams, Woodbridge School Board member and Willie Deutsch, Coles School Board member with Prince William County Schools.

With the vote on the revision to Prince William County School’s non-discrimination policy to add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity,” Wednesday evening, two school board members share their opinions on the matter.

Loree Williams, the school board member representing the Woodbridge District, is a member of the Democratic Party, and a very big supporter of the amendment.

“I am absolutely in support of our nondiscrimination policy. Prince William County Schools is the largest employer in the county,” said Williams, noting that many large school systems have adopted similar non-discrimination policies that protect LGBTQ people among other vulnerable populations as have many more employers.

“Non discrimination policy is really is to protect the most vulnerable population. It is not about restroom use. It is about a safe place for all of our staff and all of our students,” she said. “We are not reinventing the wheel here, we are simply doing what needs to be done to create a safe environment for students and staff.”

Williams believes that much of the confusion around the non-discrimination policy update stems from the fact it was proposed last year around the same time that the Obama Administration’s Department of Education made recommendations on accommodating transgender students.

That mandate was followed by backlash from states such as North Carolina, which added their own restrictions on bathroom use by transgender individuals.

Williams wants residents to know that is not the policy change the school board has proposed. Their policy change has nothing to do with transgender bathrooms use. In fact, the proposal directs the superintendent not to change anything about the way the school division currently handles those issues. Instead, Williams explained that it is about protection of students and employees especially those vulnerable to discrimination and harassment.

She understands people might be hesitant to make adopt changes about an issue they are unfamiliar with; however, she hopes residents will take the time to learn more.

“When it comes to gender identity, transgender and sexuality, I think that for the populace, this is new. There is a learning curve going on. There is a lack of understand about what it means to be transgender or to be a transgender person,” she said, explaining that some people are just learning that gender identity and sexuality is two different things.“To me this is an opportunity for all of us to strike outside of our normal values and learn something new and be inclusive of our total population.”

She is in favor of keeping transgender bathroom issues handled privately by site-based management rather than falling under a blanket policy, saying “transgender cases are handled on a case by case basis, because it’s a very private issue,” and should be handled with “care and concern.”

Williams also recognizes that issues of gender and sexual identity might challenge people’s religious beliefs. However, she said when she is a board member, she separates church and state and looks towards what is best to support all students and all employees.

Willie Deutsch, Coles District school board member, and a member of the Republican Party, believes the non-discrimination policy does not need to be changed.

Deutsch said he is concerned about the language in the policy, which simply says to add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” but does not say in what ways the school division plans to alter its practices to protect those populations.

“What do you want to change?” Deutsch asked, saying the school board needs to lay that out before the pubic. However, if nothing needs to change, he then asks why a policy change is required at all.

Deutsch is concerned with the unintended consequences of passing the policy revision, especially since Fairfax County Schools had to pause its implementation of a similar policy due to complications.

He also fears courts would interpret the vaguely written policy broadly, leaving the community little input into how the policy is implemented. He said they school division cannot defend language if there is no language to interpret, saying “no one knows that those words added even does.”

However, Deutsch said he does want to protect LGBTQ members of the PWCS community.

“[If there was discrimination against LBGTQ people in PWCS] we’d have to move very quickly to address it. [However,] there isn’t discrimination going on,” said Deutsch. “We work with [gay and transgender students], we accommodate them; we make sure they have a good education.”

Deutsch said there are many laws and policies in place to protect students and employees, and everyone from the valedictorian of Stonewall Jackson High School to high level staff members are accepted and protected at PWCS. Plus, administrators within schools and at the Kelly Center work closely with parents to find a comfortable fit and provide extra accommodations to gay and transgender students when needed.

He also wants to see students protected from bullying, but says PWCS is always working to address all kinds of bullying of all students for all kinds of reasons – too many to list on a nondiscrimination policy.

Deutsch agrees with Williams that transgender students are being served very well under the status quo, so he poses to her and others who support the policy change – why is the policy change necessary?

The issue of changing the non-discrimination policy is one that has divided the community. Although citizens spoke against the policy last week, those in favor of the policy change are writing letters and say they are organizing to speak at the Wednesday meeting at Citizens’ Tie.

The board will vote on the policy change at their Wednesday, June 21 meeting at the Kelly Leadership Center at 14715 Bristow Road in Manassas. The meeting begins at 7 p.m., but speakers need to sign up in advance.

Before that, Chairman Ryan Sawyers, who authored the proposed revision, will be holding a Facebook “Town Hall” about the proposal, Tuesday, June 20 at 8:30 p.m.

© 2017, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

Facebook Comments
Print Friendly

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Category: Education

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

banner ad