School boards are often only discussed when we are frustrated by their actions. That’s certainly been true for me for most of my career. I like and respect most of the members of my school board and I have been to several board meetings over the years. (Twice to celebrate my National Board Certification, when I certified and when I renewed, once to celebrate being nominated for Teacher of the Year in my district, and once to speak to the board about technology use in the classroom. I’m clearly not active when it comes to the school board.) Mostly I think about the board when they do something I don’t like.
I teach in a very large, very wealthy district just outside of Washington, D.C. It’s not a district that typically moves quickly or with great innovation. I think our sheer size hampers that but we also tend to be somewhat conservative in our decision making. That has frustrated me on many occasions.
At this moment, however, I am thrilled with my school board. Last year they updated our nondiscrimination policy to include gender identity. That caused something of an uproar and the school board was sued by a student and a conservative activist. The suit was dismissed. That was an impressive step forward, especially in an area that rarely gets out in front of controversial issues.
This week the board amended our school handbook. Changing our policy was good, but also pretty meaningless. There wasn’t really any meat on those bones. Changing the school handbook means that there are clear ways for people to take action if (when) discrimination based on gender identity happens. Needless to say there are some unhappy people. This was not a unanimous board decision, it passed 9 to 3.
You can read quotes in the Washington Post article from board members who were against this change. Their quotes read as though they are concerned about how this will be implemented, what will it actually look like. I think that’s a question anytime you change policy or regulations. Stating the new expectation isn’t going to specifically address every possible question, instance, or issue. That will happen over time. But it certainly isn’t a reason to leave these students, these children, at the mercy of the discrimination and bullying they have faced and are facing.
As a school system we serve ALL children. We must teach them AND keep them safe. It doesn’t matter how you personally feel about homosexuality, bisexuality, transgender, or anything. If you work in a school system you serve every child there and you must teach them and keep them safe. If you can’t do that because of your personal beliefs, then it’s time to rethink your job choice.