Just in time for students in Kentucky’s largest school district to return to class tomorrow, a new policy expanding protections to include transgender people of all ages has been approved.
The Jefferson County Board of Education, which serves Louisville and nearby towns, voted 6-1 Monday to expand its antiharassment and antidiscrimination policy to specifically include transgender students, teachers, and staff.
The district's previous policy did not include gender identity or gender expression.
Immediately following the vote, the board tweeted a picture of a double rainbow with the caption, ”Our schools and minds are open. #LGBTQ"
— JCPS (@JCPSKY) August 25, 2015
"This is a great night for equity," said school board member Lisa Willner. "I am proud of this board for passing this policy."
Willner told Louisville television station WDRB that the expanded policy "doesn't mean everything will be great" or that the district's transgender students and employees will be free from discrimination or harassment.
Superintendent Donna Hargens told WDRB that under the new policy, transgender students or employees who feel they are discriminated against can report it just as anyone who feels harassed for their race or age could do so.
As WHAS reported earlier this month, this type of policy change is not unprecedented in Kentucky or the district: The Fayette County Public School Board approved a similar measure in July 2013, and last year Louisville's Atherton High School passed a policy banning discrimination based on gender identity.
The change comes just six months after the defeat of a proposed Kentucky law that trans advocates said would have empowered students to become "bathroom bullies" toward their transgender classmates. Senate Bill 76, originally introduced by Republican Senator C.B. Embry, Jr., would have restricted trans students' access to bathrooms, locker rooms, and other gender-segreated facilities on school campuses. Although it passed the state Senate, it failed to advance in the House on the last working day of the legislative session.
Jefferson board member Linda Duncan cast the lone vote against the expansion of protections. While telling WDRB she was "not in support of discrimination of any kind,” she explained that her vote against it came down to how it will be enforced, and she felt dissatisfied with the process that led to the rewritten policy and the lack of input from the district's assistant principals.
Duncan also said she feared the expanded policy could open the door to legal action, since the Kentucky School Boards Association specifically advised against adding gender identity and gender expression to the policy because they go beyond what state law lists as protected characteristics.
Board member Chuck Haddaway said he too was concerned with how the policy was written but voted in favor of it to send the message that the district wants every student and employee to feel safe.
Watch the TV station's report below.