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Equity and fairness—especially for LGBTQ students—a growing concern in Loudoun County schools

Concerns about equity and fairness within Loudoun County Public Schools claimed all of the School Board's public comment session last week.

Dominating the night’s public comment was the issue of LCPS’ lack of discrimination and harassment protections toward LGBTQ students and staff. The board voted 4-5 against adding LGBTQ-specific protections to its staff discrimination policy last January.

Since then, members of Equality Loudoun and LGBTQ students have spoken to the School Board every month, urging the board to revisit the issue, with Potomac Falls senior Luc Teyssier making the most passionate plea yet.

“I’m here before you today because there is no clause in the LCPS doctrine that explicitly defends LGBT students and staff from discrimination. I want to ask you in person why you don’t think that I am worthy of protection, specifically, Mr. Morse, Ms. Rose, Ms. Turgeon, Mr. DeKenipp and Mr. Hornberger,” Teyssier said.

School Board Vice Chairwoman Brenda Sheridan (Sterling) originally proposed adding the LGBTQ-specific protections to staff discrimination policy in November 2016, saying that by adding the specific protections, LGBTQ teachers and staff can feel as comfortable as their straight counterparts speaking of their partners or bringing their partners to school functions without the fear of repercussions.

As it stands, teachers and staff could be fired for being gay or transgender and the state law offers no legal recourse.

Furthermore, in teachers feeling safe in being visible, it helps LGBTQ students feel safer because they see people like them in school. Sheridan has also spoken in favor of adding LGBTQ-protections to school harassment policies for students, as LGBTQ students have an increased suicide rate because of targeted bullying.

Broad Run senior Charlie Fierstine, who identifies as non-binary, said there have been multiple instances during which friends have been verbally attacked for being or perceived to be gay, and teachers and authority figures did nothing to intervene.

“My teachers have done absolutely nothing, so I’m here to actually do something. I am here to show you what’s going on in schools. I’m here to show you, you can actually help,” Fierstine said. “If teachers were to be just a little more educated on what to do in these situations, maybe they would do something.”

Equality Loudoun, an LGBTQ advocacy organization, has named the lack of LGBTQ protections in the school system a priority. Loudoun County government has already passed LGBTQ protections for county employees.

“How can you justify allowing kids to live in fear as I did for years,” Teyssier said to the board. “What if your child had to live in fear?”

Two more community members brought up concerns affecting minority students. Katrecia Nolen brought up the disparity in suspension rates between minority and majority students after reading an article about Loudoun’s reduced suspension rate.

According to a Harvard report, special education students are suspended three times more than general population students. Black students are two and a half times more likely to be suspended, and Hispanic students are one and a half times more likely to be suspended than white counterparts.

“I sit here, and I appreciate the fact that overall numbers have been reduced, but I am rather disappointed that the numbers have not been reduced for minority, especially special education students,” Nolen said. “We have to do more.”

LCPS has instituted alternative discipline models like restorative practices to find other ways to settle problems instead of suspending students.

Nolen also spoke about the lack of minority teachers within LCPS, quoting studies that show when students have teachers who look like them, they are likely to perform better. Nolen questioned where LCPS is in its status on diversity hires.

According to previous school system statements, county administrators and staff have received diversity training and have reached out to more diverse hiring fairs in an attempt to bring in a more diverse pool of candidates.

Still, Nolen said she’d heard accounts from friends who applied for positions and never received as much as a courtesy call from LCPS.

Minority Student Achievement Advisory Committee (MSAAC) member Ed Surga brought a technology equity issue to the board’s attention. Parents shared their experiences with access to technology in schools at MSAAC’s Oct. 18 meeting, and Surga said not all schools and students have equal access.

“Parents are concerned that there are pockets of inequitable technological learning experiences,” Surga said.

He said families are specifically concerned about the technological expertise of teachers, the availability of technology in classrooms, that students are being asked to bring their own technology, that students might be missing out on lessons because they don’t have the technology to bring to school or that the technology they bring may be inadequate.

Another concern is that some PTA budgets may not have the funds to buy technology if the school is unable to buy enough iPads or Chromebooks for all students, especially as enrollment continues to grow.

School Board members can tackle these issues in committee or by proposing a new business item at a general meeting.

Comments


How is it they LGBTQ people always say that they just want to be treated like everyone else but then demand special exceptions because they are LBGTQ?


I would like to know which Loudoun policy or law violates the federal laws on discrimination when it comes to firing gay or transgender. And how many have been fired for being gay or transgender? LCPS policy is already that all students are to be treated equally. Read the last sentence of the 1st paragraph of student responsibilities in the student rights and responsibility handbook as an example of how LCPS has already addressed this problem. And if we call out LGBTQ, do we call out the specific rights of non-LGBTQ students? Bottom line is current discrimination policy is more than adequate.


There are current protections against harassment and assault.
Everyone should be treated equally. If someone is assaulted call the Police. Education should the priority for LCPS.
Special rights are contrary to equality. Anything else is biased liberalism. 


I am 40 years old, and I have never heard of someone identifying as “non-binary”.  I’m so confused… or maybe I’m not the one confused.  Everyone should be treated equally; therefore, defining specific sexual regulations does just the opposite.


As usual the homophobes and racist that populate some of the school board seats and comment section of this paper do not understand that their time is up.  Like the Dinosaurs when the comet hit earth, their mindset and point of view are over.  But, like rabid dogs they persist loudly and violently until the end.  The wave that struck Loudoun and Virginia on November 8th will strike again and we will soon rid ourselves of these people and their medieval mindsets.  Keep doing what you are doing heir Trump because you are just helping to speed along the change.


I sure am glad we have folks like LoudounResident010 to tell the LGBTQ community what’s best for them. After all, it’s not like LGBTQ people are at a much greater risk of being the target of discrimination and violence, right? And it’s not like transgender people are slain on average once a month on account of their identities, or that many LGBTQ people past and present across the country have been fired unjustly, right? I mean, we really need more people who are oblivious to realities that LGBTQ people face to tell us what’s sufficient rather than to help address those concerns.

As for SterlingLocal, perhaps he missed the part of the article that states that there IS NO law protecting LGBTQ staff from being fired for that reason.


education should be priority for LCPS….not the students sexual orientation….priorities priorities…


I don’t recall seeing any articles about Loudoun teachers being fired or students being suspended/expelled for their sexual preferences.  Somebody please correct me if I’m wrong here.

A better use of time and resources would be to address the rampant insecurity problem in the LGBT community.  Their constant attention-mongering is growing tiresome.


JohnDoe, I think your comment provides insight as to why protections are needed for our children.


More like growing complaint, or is it just attention seeking?


@SterlingLocal - No, that’s not exactly it. Asking for LGBTQ protections is like saying that you should not be discriminated against or in any way marginalized for like WWLLKK. If that’s “Stalin like” then you and I have studied very different history books.


There should be something on the books for LGBT student protections.  Sounds like the staff already has some measure of protection.  SterlingLocal doesn’t want attention drawn to his love of shemales and any conversation on the topic of sexuality instantly makes him giggle and then go on the defensive.  Please forgive.


Is this about feelings or attention? I can’t decide.


there is already equal protection under the law why do we need symbolic declarations? I want to declare to the world that I like Women who look like Kim Kardashian, that is my sexual preference. isn’t that what LGBT is, declaring your sexual preference and forcing everyone in a Stalin like way to accept it?

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