Gay students in Palm Beach County, Fla., are one step closer to getting specific protection from harassment and discrimination, according to the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel. The school board voted 5-1 Monday to add sexual orientation to the list of protected characteristics in the district's antidiscrimination policy. The policy already prohibits harassment and discrimination based on race, religion, color, sex, national origin, age, disability, and marital status. The school board is expected to take a final vote on November 18.
"If we put it there in black-and-white, we're sending a message that we consider this as much a priority as other historically protected categories," said school board member Bill Graham.
Clarence Brooks, chairman of the county chapter of the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, praised the board's decision. Brooks, a dance teacher at Middle School of the Arts in West Palm Beach, said what's happening is the opposite of what the district originally feared. Districts that do not specifically name gay and lesbian students as a protected group have faced lawsuits, Brooks said. "By being vague, you open yourself up to more," he said.