by Dan Savage
on Wed, Oct 13, 2010 at 8:24 AM
The Saline School Board voted last night on whether to add "sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression" to its existing non-discrimination policy.
For two hours before the vote and another 45 minutes toward the end of the meeting, members of the community weighed in on the proposed policy change. The board heard from current and former teachers, current and former students, parents, concerned citizens, and others outside the district....
Don DiPaolo, who taught in Saline for 19 years, told the board he was too afraid to come out in Saline because the climate wasn’t safe for a gay teacher. “The truth is there are a lot of painful, painful memories here, which is why I haven’t been back since ‘97,” he said. DiPaolo said he tried to keep his sexual orientation a secret, but still people in the community suspected and wrote anti-gay slurs on his car in spray paint and in his classroom and damaged his car.
The board also heard from community members who didn't support changing the policy. Tom Frederick, a science teacher at the high school, told the school board it needed to realize student complaints should be dealt with through the bullying policy, not the non-discrimination policy. He questioned whether the school board should take an advocacy role on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues, and worried “the change will lead to future cases of discrimination.”
The Saline School Board's current non-discrimination policy bars discrimination based on "height, weight, religion, sex, color, race, national origin, and marital status," and specifies that those traits—some immutable (race, national origin, sex), some not (religion, weight, marital status)—can't be "used to deny students the benefits of educational activities." And last night, at a time of heightened awareness about anti-gay bullying in schools, the Saline school board voted 4-3 against adding "sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression" to that long list. The Saline School Board apparently agrees with Tom Frederick: barring discrimination against LGBT kids might lead to "future cases of discrimination." Because, hey, if you ban discrimination against LGBT students then you're going to wind up discriminating against the people who want to discriminate against LGBT students—and aren't the LGBT students and their allies the ones who are arguing that discrimination is wrong?
Board members who voted against it were Amy Cattell, Chuck Lesch, Paul Hynek and Craig Hoeft.
You can't contact board members via the Saline School Board's website. But I wonder if they have Facebook pages. I'm getting on an airplane. Anyone wanna poke around?