December is an interesting time for the Salt Lake School Board. People aren’t really focused on school because, of course, they’re more interested in malls and extreme consumer activities. And the board is a bit of a lame duck, although still quacking. Board member Mark Maxfield was defeated in the November election, primarily because he couldn’t see any need for a policy of non-discrimination that would include gays and lesbians and LGBTs, which kind of wraps all of them together.
Just in case you want to read the proposed policy: http://www.slcschools.org/board/meetings/agendas/2011/Dec7/ActE1.pdf
First off, the district is inserting language to prohibit discrimination in employment because of sexual orientation. It’s supposed to be parallel to G-19, which is the major one they’ll be considering tonight. We don’t know why they want to talk about this first, since it will most likely have to be changed.
No, they’re not there yet. Now they’re discussing S-3 – There are apparently strong feelings about elementary school calendar preferences and so the board is going to look at this. Sounds like there’s big bucks attached to this, if you don’t choose a common calendar. Something like $50,000-$100,000. OK, I admit this is hard to follow. It’s really about student discipline.
Kristi Swett notes they have this great paper that Janet Roberts has created, and it shows all the efficiencies of going to a common calendar.
Now we’re back to Student Discipline, but Alama Uluave really wants to do G-19 first. If we resolve G-19 first, we’ll resolve all the other things, he says. But Heather says, gee, all the board members thought S-3 should be passed as is. So why put it later? Hey, I don’t get it, either.
Now, thank you, thank you everyone for giving us such great information, good conversation shared with all, and we’re doing due diligence, Kristi says.
Comments from small group meetings? Nah. Alama says amend G-19 remove sexual orientation and deleting something about S-3. Mark seconds, but really wants something else, he says.
“… for religionand remove “sexual orientation.”
Heather says we’ve had gender in it from the beginning. Alama is OK with gender, but not sexual orientation.
Neither Amanda Thorderson nor Heather can support. Laurel Young amends motion to go back. ummm But she thinks confusion is that no one’s happy with this as it is. With Alama’s amendment, it still doesn’t .. uh, maybe we need to go back and revisit this policy.
Alama says its a very complex subject and deserves more discussion. There’s a lot of emotion with it, and a lot of disagreement. What’s upside? I still question the process, he says, cause this is a permanent decision and effects whole lota people across the board. There are assumptions that are wrong. He wants to answer the unintended consequences. Yah, it’s popular, but he can’t operate without constituents and this is divisive and all.
He’s lost sleep over this. Who’s this benefiting; how many? Who is it? How many in the district? We have other issues. And this is permanent and won’t be changed, he says. The messages he gets are about leaving it to the legislature.
Amanda says we’ve discussed this for a long time. At the retreat, and on and off since she’s been on the board. I keep hearing that it’s such a divisive issue and I have not got a single email or phone call saying do not do this. Every one says it’s about time.
“I believe this does affect the education of the kids and we do need to address it,” Amanda says. And of course, she has an amended amendment or whatever, too.
Mark would support Alama or Laurel, but says the attorney doesn’t want to add a protected class. Heather notes that the lawyer said that would be in law, not policy. hmmm
Mark has heard from Amanda’s people who won’t talk to her because it’s not politically correct, and they won’t talk to Heather, either.
Alama says it’s a mistake – prediction is that it will cause more problems than it will solve. The elevation of one group over all others is to put them over all the others. There are other issue besides those who have “feelings,” he says. Putting them on a pedestal is to discriminate against the rest.
There are other ways, using an inside-out process. This is just mandated from above. We have not included parents to come up with alternative solutions.
If we pass sexual orientation, then gender identity is right next. What am I going to tell my child about same-sex attractions, he asks. We are part of 25 in the nation that does not have protection.
Is it worth it? Is it worth it for student learning? Or are we going to embroil ourselves in someone else’s battle.
Doug Nelson says he’d have trouble supporting the amendment. He thinks it’s more divisive for the board than it is for Salt Lake City. He also thinks people expect board members to vote. It feels like we’re not fulfilling our responsibility and our oath of office, if after discussing a topic for several months, we don’t actually take a stand and vote for it, and he admires Alama for taking a stand, but well, stuff it.
“We have engaged in a civil debate, and can still work with one another for years to come, then we will have given the schoolchildren of this district a real good model.” And gay and lesbian people don’t go away. Not so much putting them on a pedestal. I think the intent is to make a level playing field.
Heather says important to remember that terms apply to everybody. I have a race, a sexual orientation. It’s not OK for you to discriminate against me because of that … If you says it puts someone on a pedestal, it’s a misreading of the law.
It’s not to put dark skinned people, women in a special class … it’s to say it’s not acceptable to discriminate based on those characteristics.
Alama says Wisconsin enumerates the classes. Where will it stop. Trivialized – tall, skinny? He starts to talk about higher ed, but apparently has something wrong, and Heather calls him out on it. But he says it’s just not going to stop.We’re giving attention, time, money, resources and high risk. We’re putting our children’s education in jeopardy for NOTHING.
Mark disagrees because the legislature has five more conservatives now, and he doesn’t want to alienate them. Look what happened to President Packer when he gave his talk.
Kristi says she’s not happy with bringing conservatives and liberals into this. And she says S-3 is the bullying policy, and hey, it’s different from discrimination.
Bianca says it does involve kids. Both the policies have an effect. What happens to you as a child, stays with you forever. It’s a very controversial and important.
Kristi says bullying can lead to discrimination and prejudice. Amanda says it can rise to level of discrimination.
Called for vote on the amendment. Laurel, Alama and Mark vote in favor. Motion fails.
Laurel wants to make a point. Her request was that it go to the community, and she feels that it has gone to the community. Students have had the opportunity to weigh in on it. We do not want any discrimination.
She has problems with policy addressing students and staff.
Laurel moves that G-19 be two poicies: one for staff and one for students. Alama seconds. Mark can support it.
Heather speaks against it. We’ve been talking about this for more than five months in all of its various iterations. And talking about it on board for years. She was not persuaded that it was necessary to separate it; she was willing to do it, but feels like they have to move forward now.
No laws are permanent. We can change them if we need to. It only increases animosity and divide.
Kristi shuts Mark down and asks for a return to civility. She says the direction was to take the policies back to committee and then come out. Mark, of course, thinks everyone is lying through their politically correct teeth.
Doug says his perception is if split it into two parts – he thinks a majority of board members who’d want sexual orientation and gender identity in both policies, and that would render this discussion moot. He thinks there would be two identical policies then.
Motion to split G-19 back under subcommittee’s direction. Same 4-3 vote.
Back to the original DRAFT policy. Amanda wants to make amendment.
She recognizes there is a difference between employees and students, and could be addressed in administrative policies (which they like to call APs). So she wants to add gender identity.
Heather wants to change — it is a violation of this policy to “tolerate” to “ignore” harassment.
Alama says tolerate means “respect.” But Heather says, gee, this is a prohibition.
Kristi wants to make another friendly amendment. We don’t know what it is.
Heather says there are pamphlets, etc … for employees that explain sexual orientation.
Amanda clarifies: add gender identity and to change tolerate to ignore. Whew!
There might be a time when the line has to be drawn with gender expression between employees and students, but Amanda thinks it can be addressed in those APs so that actions are appropriate.
Heather just wants to say as to edcuational relevance to the policy, clearly it applies to our students. You just have blinders on if you suggest that the comfort level people feel has no effect on students. Message I want to send is that we are welcoming to all people who are willing to do the work of educating kids.
Alama, if this is the direction we’re heading, what are the benefits. Is there something tangible that can be measured on this lasting decision? What about ramifications of what we are doing tonight; huge, far-reaching and lasting. Is it benefiting the seven children only?
He really wants to see some measures. And if it happens, and we don’t deliver, what are we doing about the risk?
Doug says, well, if there’s 5 percent LGBT – those are the ones really affected by this, but as a white, heterosexual guy, I’m not affected by it, but i’m certainly in favor of it.
Just a statement of fact: the SLCSD does not discriminate. Fourteen years ago this board closed down every club because one school had a gay club.
The measurement of the civil rights movement 50 years ago you can see in our president today. Someday we will have a gay or lesbian president.
Alama – every day I see kids being beat up, slammed against the cement. He’s not worried about what happened to Obama.
Doug says 5 percent of those kids are gay.
Alama says he knows they exist, but he doesn’t know who they are.
Mark says neither he nor Alama want any kid to be harassed, but S-3 is good ‘nuf. And that’s what the lawyer says.
Pregnant silence. No more discussion.
Motion: (again?) passes 4-3. Oh, that’s just to amend it.
Doug moves approval of G-19 in amended form, and Amanda seconds.
Alama just reminds himself that they’ve added gender identity.
Motion passes. To much applause.
Now they want to talk about S-3. Alama wants to change something about being “perceived” to be overweight. Heather says kids can be bullied about being gender-non-conforming, and can just be a perception. Now we’re into semi-colons and phrases. Doug likes to have “who are” as well as “who are perceived to be…”
Alama says we’re putting them up on pedestal again. He thinks it’s the same thing to say they’re perceived or if they are.
OK, now Alama says he’s been discriminated against because of his nose and his race. Why can’t we all be on a level plain?
It will read: “students who are, or are perceived to be overweight; students who are, or are perceived to be gay, lesbian …”
Alama wants to take out the “who are.” Just to cover the bases, he’d add “who are different than you.” Well, who’s YOU, Heather asks. OMG.
McKell Withers says, well, that would protect everyone but you, whoever you are. Kristi has lost track of where we are, but no one knows what the amendment is, and there isn’t a second.
Alama restates his motion, and Mark seconds. Heather says she thinks it’s still important to have both. All this says is we recognize that this class of students is more likely to be bullied. Alama doesn’t like to treat this group better than others.
Heather points out that it says “all populations.” We believe and know that these students who fit these categories are likely to be targeted.
Alama – “to better protect our students.” Why are we shifting the responsibility to the schools?
McKell says it’s expected that each school addresses this issue. Alama wants to add “district.”
Now he’s going to change it to “the school district will help each school formulate a policy …” McKell reads something and says it’s covered.
S-3 passes with one dissent.