Archive for Tuesday, December 5, 2000

Expansion of nondiscrimination policy endorsed

December 5, 2000

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Lawrence school board members Monday endorsed significant expansion of the district's nondiscrimination policy.

The board's intention is to add "sexual orientation," "gender identity," "socio-economic status" and "physical characteristics" to a seven-item list of protected categories.

The policy adjustments were lauded by several members of the public. No one spoke against the amendments.

"What we're doing in this community is a giant step forward in dealing with issues of harassment and intimidation," said Forrest Swall, who helped coordinate the effort to place sexual orientation and gender identity to the policy.

The new policy states the district's goal is a "working and learning environment free from discrimination, insult, intimidation or harassment for any reason."

It continues: "This will include, but not be limited to race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, socio-economic status or physical characteristics."

Supt. Randy Weseman said the changes were a reasonable update of a policy last revised in 1994.

"It basically reflects current thinking on discrimination," he said.

David Brown, a Lawrence attorney and parent of two school-age children, convinced the board to clarify that students were prohibited from harassing employees.

"I will attempt to put in another sentence to meet that," said Austin Turney, board president.

The board is expected to take final action on revisions to the section in 2001.

Board member Scott Morgan, who remains opposed to addition of "gender identity" in employee sections of the manual, said students must be protected from all forms of harassment.

"We tend to bust a gut over words," he said. "But the main thing is I don't want kids harassed."

Morgan said the district must put the policy in place with care. He said presentations to elementary students by district staff about harassment in the past had included inappropriate terms.

"You've got to use tact," Morgan said.

In other business, the board:

l Approved purchase of 10 computers for Schwegler School with $11,500 from the school's PTO.

l Agreed to pay $7,500 to Sunflower Datavision to run a fiber optic line to Grant School.

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