This is my summary of Action Items 10.02 & 10.03 at the school board meeting that can be viewed HERE.
Changes proposed by Brenda L. Sheridan (version A):
I moved to amend Policy 7012 by inserting after “disability” in line 7 “sexual orientation and gender identity” so it would read … The Loudoun County School Board is an equal opportunity employer. It is the policy of the school board to conform to the laws of the United States and the Commonwealth of Virginia and not discriminate against qualified applicants and their employees on the basis of race, color, sex, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, marital status, age, religion, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, or genetic information, and any other characteristic provided by law.
Ms. Sheridan gave additional commentary:
I’ve met with, talked to and emailed employees, parents, and staff. I am confident that adding the language to protect LGBTQ employees to our policies under consideration tonight is the right thing to do. We have received many emails in support of the motion to add sexual oriention and gender identity to our EEO policy and harassment & discrimination policy.
Sheridan went on to share some of the comments, many supportive and others vehemently against the changes, while keeping their identities anonymous.
Beth Huck also spoke about the emails she received, and she used the ones she called “hateful” as a reason to believe discrimination and harassment against LGBT people in Loudoun County is a problem, and therefore proof that a school board policy change is necessary. Ms Huck then implied that Christians who quoted the Bible in opposition to pro-LGBT policy changes were not being loving Christians. She tearfully explained that she only desires to protect students from being harassed and bullied, and therefore she would support the motion.
Several other supervisors spoke, Eric DeKenipp (against), Debbie Rose (against), and Joy Maloney (for). Eric Hornberger said:
This policy came to us in a regular review. After over five years of not being reviewed. It didn’t come to us because we had an overwhelming need to correct the policy. When I read the policy initially—and of course I appreciate the fact that we’ve had an opportunity to look into it further—I did find it unsatisfying. Part of the reason it’s unsatisfying is because it’s not our language. It’s language we have to have into our policy because of state and federal law. None of these pieces that are on this are things that local school boards have added. It’s because of federal and state statutes that we’re implementing.
And one of the things that … I have been trying to figure out … [are] the limits of what we do in terms of employment policy as a school board or as an organization. I talked to our staff to ask “Do we have cases of discrimination? Do we have people who have said this is a problem?” And time and time again it hasn’t been a case that has come formerly into LCPS except for the opposite—where people have made bigoted comments and said things like that, and those are the people that get in trouble in Loudoun County Public Schools.
So, again, I look at this and I say, “Okay, so if we go down the road of adding these protected classes now and take that authority as a school board, why do we stop there? Because, again, you could always find vulnerable groups.
And the problem is this is not some total of how we feel as an organization. I had other people say, “Well—and some of the board members have said—you know, I’d rather not have all these different protected class lists in that we just don’t discriminate on the basis of anything other than merit. Or on qualifications for a job and the ability to do that.”
But the reality is that we can’t do that, and the reason is that we are under state and federal law, and there’s historical reasons why these lists are in there. But they’re not lists that local school boards have come up with. They’re lists that have either come from the state or federal statute.
But again I’m still left with, you know, the issue of being unhappy with that being the sum total of our words on employment. And so as board members know, I will be proposing a different paragraph that I think actually sets a tone with the way we really do hire and what we do value when we hire. And it’s not related to: “Well, if you’re one of these classes we won’t discriminate against you.” Well, no, it goes beyond that because we hire because of merit. We hire because we want the best professionals teaching our students and serving in our schools. We want people who — as a school division, we value diversity. We do. We have homosexual teachers. We have them. I know them. So it’s not, to me, that’s not “we’re against them.”
That’s the problem that I see with the way the language is written currently, but, again, that’s not of our making. That’s a list that we are provided and we have to provide in here for other reasons.
So, I’m not going to support the addition of language at this point because I think that fundamentally changes the nature of the list—it becomes our responsibility to add protected classes. And that’s not what my understanding of why this was included in the first place, and why every school board has to have this in their policies.
But I do think we do need to work at broadening our policy to speak about what we do value. And so I’ll be making an amendment after this amendment that I think begins to do that.
Tom Marshall then spoke indicating his support for the additional language proposed by Ms. Sheridan.
Mr. DeKenipp spoke again:
To clarify, these are employment policies, however, by including the verbiage in the employment policy we are creating protected classes, and therefore setting a precedent that could be used against us for students. So by setting that precedent in employment policies we are potentially liable to not afford those same protected classes at the student level. So there is a precedent that would be set and there would be implications—I just wanted to clarify that.
Jill Turgeon spoke, explaining that she was not in favor of changing the policy. Then Joy Maloney responded to Ms. Turgeon and gave additional commentary. And then Jeffrey Morse spoke, and he pointed out that anyone who is different is going to be targeted for bullying. He indicated that he would not support the proposed policy language change for two reasons: school leadership are already handling LGBT issues with respect without policy changes, and that the Supreme Court in a matter of months will decide the issue for the board anyway.
Then Brenda Sheridan spoke again before the final vote.
Brenda Sheridan: in favor
Beth Huck: in favor
Joy Maloney: in favor
Tom Marshall: in favor
Eric DeKenipp: against
Jill Turgeon: against
Debbie Rose: against
Eric Hornberger: against
Jeffrey Morse: against
Then, the board was presented with Mr. Hornberger’s proposed addition to the LCPS School Board’s EEO statement. After some back and forth, the motion was unanimously approved:
After that, the board was presented with Mr. Marshall’s proposed policy: the Adoption of New Policy 7014, Harassment and Discrimination, and the Deletion of Policies 7-2, 7-2A, and 7-34.
Currently LCPS has policies concerning sexual harassment and disability harassment. Sometimes complaints are received about other federally protected categories outlined in lines 4-6 of the proposed policy. Some examples are race and age. LCPS completes harassment and discrimination investigations on these complaints as is compliant with federal regulations. However, because no broad policy exists naming these other federally-protected categories, it is not very transparent for employees. Policy 7014 would correct that.
Currently we have a procedure for employees with sexual harassment complaints and a seperate procedure for employee disability complaints. Policy 7014 would establish a uniform procedure for all complaints of harassment and discrimination related to the federally-protected categories. …
This creates one procedure for employees to understand. We have checked with legal council and the procedure proposed complies with federal requirements. The new policy outlines timelines that are expeditious as possible and apply to all federally-protected category investigations. This both helps employees know what to expect as well as keep administration on track to bring the investigation to completion. The new policy explains that compliance officers and the complaint form and the harassment & discrimination complaint form and how to find them.
That’s some of the nuts and bolts of the policies found in this one. So we’re looking at the policy version A, and I believe that you have copies in front of you.
Brenda Sheridan then made a substitute motion to adopt Version B, seconded by Beth Huck.
Version B failed in a 3-6 vote (Sheridan, Huck, & Maloney in favor). Version A passed 7-2 (Sheridan & Huck against).