Florida school district passes gay protections

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com March 26 2003 12:00 AM ET

Gay students received new protections Monday when Florida's Palm Beach County school board voted to ban discrimination and harassment based on a student's sexual orientation. The board voted 5-2 in passing the measure, which was being considered by the board for the third time in 12 years. Approximately 100 people filled the boardroom, most of them voicing support for the measure. Teacher Clarence Brooks said students deserve the protection: "As educators, we know students are harassed. It is not a rite of passage. No one should have to endure abuse." School superintendent Art Johnson also supported the ban. He said he had voted against it previously but decided that "I was wrong. This is about protection, safety, and equality."

The proposal came up in 1991 and 1999. In both cases the board passed a general antiharassment policy that didn't specifically list gay students. In 1999 the board was ready to include sexual orientation until a school board lawyer said the change could encourage lawsuits.