A school board in Texas has postponed a vote on policies aimed at stopping anti-LGBT bullying and harassment, but its Thursday night meeting nonetheless drew more than 200 people, many of them voicing strong opinions pro and con.
More than half of the attendees offered an opportunity to address the Keller Independent School District board spoke out against the policies, Dallas-Fort Worth TV station WFAA reports. Keller is located in the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area.
Superintendent Randy Reid had sent out an email just hours before the meeting, saying the vote had been delayed because "the issue has become extremely polarizing, with the great potential of creating feelings of winners and losers," the Fort Worth Star-Telegram
The board was to vote on "a half-dozen clauses aimed at protecting students and employees from discrimination, bullying and harassment based on gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation," the paper reports. The move to consider the measures grew out of Timber Creek High School student Casey Akers's complaint last March about not being allowed to ask her girlfriend to prom during a lunch period -- administrators said it would be disruptive. That led to a social media campaign and a meeting by students, teachers, and administrators to review antibullying policies.
Current policy bans discrimination and harassment based on gender, race, color, religion, national origin, disability, or any other basis prohibited by law, and covers both students and employees. Several people who spoke at Thursday's meeting said that's just fine, and they opposed adoption of the new clauses.
"Enforce what is already there," said Walter Vaughn, according to WFAA. "It's part of life. Children are going to bully each other. And the only thing we can do as parents is try to teach them."
Keith Dyer, who has two grandchildren in Keller schools, said he feared the new clauses would single out LGBT students, WFAA reports. "It puts a target on their back," he said. "To me, it would make it harder."
Some residents have voiced concerns about letting transgender students use the restrooms and other sex-segregated facilities of their choice, but Reid said the proposed policies would not allow that and that the district already accommodates transgender students on a case-by-case basis.
Two board members have been particularly opposed to the new clauses. Jo Lynn Haussmann recently wrote on her personal Facebook page, referring to LGBT students, "They need to learn to live as a 'normal' school kid and forget the nonsense ... it's time for these kids to learn 'it's not all about them' but there are rules and societal standards that should be followed." She declined comment on the post to local media.
Brad Schofield, another opponent, went on conservative talk radio to urge the public to attend the meeting and speak out against the changes, and he also made an appeal via a local Tea Party group's Facebook page, the Star-Telegram notes.
Several attendees, though, voiced support for the measures. "Protecting these kids from bullying, discrimination, and harassment because of who they are will save lives," said Adam Davis, a student at the University of Texas at Austin who plans to become a teacher, reports WFAA.
Katie Hicks, an incoming senior at Timber Creek, said she's witnessed severe hostility, even death threats, aimed at LGBT students, the Star-Telegram reports. "Every student deserves the chance to feel safe and have a safe learning environment at school," she said.
The school board announced no date for a rescheduled vote on the new clauses, but Reid said the process would move forward in the next few weeks. The postponement left some students frustrated.
"I've been waiting a long time for this meeting," Akers told the Star-Telegram. "And now we have to wait even longer."
Watch the WFAA report below.