School Board to consider adding 'gender identity' to nondiscrimination policy

The proposal would add 'gender identity' to a list of protected characteristics as a parenthetical after the category of 'sex.' Doing so would clarify that transgender students are protected.

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The Flagler County School Board will consider adding the words "gender identity" to its nondiscrimination policy — a move that would for the first time explicitly protect transgender students — during its 6 p.m. Dec. 15 meeting.

The proposed amendment would specify through an added parenthetical that both gender identity and sexual orientation (which is already listed in the policy) are covered under a prohibition on sex discrimination.

Rather than stating that discrimination may not take place on the basis of "... color, religion, gender" and other categories, the new language would state that discrimination may not take place on the basis of "... color, religion, sex (sexual orientation, gender identity)" and the other categories.

The existing list of covered identity identity categories includes “race, color, religion, gender, age, marital status, sexual orientation, pregnancy, disability, political or religious beliefs, national or ethnic origin, or genetic information.” Despite months of campaigning by transgender students and advocates who say transgender students don't feel protected, three of the School Board's five members — Janet McDonald, Jill Woolbright and Trevor Tucker — have resisted adding gender identity to the list, saying it's too controversial, "identity politics," unnecessary because it's implied by the inclusion of the word "gender," or that adding it would be a slippery slope to adding all kinds of other identities that would make the list too long. 

The two other board members, longtime board member Colleen Conklin and newly elected board member Cheryl Massaro, have pressed their colleagues to reconsider, saying that adding the two words causes no harm but may help students feel that the district cares about their well-being.

A student school board member, Kyleigh Ruddy, has also created an internet petition to add gender identity to the policy. It had garnered 378 signatures as of Dec. 14.

The proposed change comes as the district considers state and federally-mandated changes to the nondiscrimination policy that include specifying, through a parenthetical note, that anti-Semitism is prohibited under the policy's prohibition on discrimination based on race.



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