Part of that environment is learning about the people around you, and the historical figures who came before you, learning how to appreciate diversity, and making peace with those who disagree with you. Unfortunately, people have trouble with this, and so we have bullying and discrimination, harassment, and retaliation policies to protect people so that they have recourse if such things occur, and therefore feel safe to be who they are and, in the case of teachers, feel free to teach about people who fall into those categories, support their students who fall into those categories, and if they themselves are LGBT, feel able to speak about their families without fear of discriminatory retaliation.
As you know, the discrimination, harassment, and retaliation policies of MISD do not include sexual orientation, gender expression, and gender identity. While the current policies are intended to be all-inclusive, the lack of an explicit policy leaves loopholes that hamper those who need to take action against bullying and discrimination. Unless those words are in print, enforcement will continue to be minimal or nonexistent and our students will continue to be bullied. Teachers and administrators need policies in writing in order to be able to do their jobs.
In elementary school, students get to be the Star of the Week, and create a poster talking about themselves and their families. This includes the children with two moms or two dads. Right now, if the other children choose to say discriminatory, mean-spirited things about that child’s family, they have no explicit recourse in the policies. And the teacher, if he or she wants to defend the student, could run afoul of prejudiced adults, and have no place to stand.
In classes, students learn about historical figures and what in their lives led them to be who they are. Right now, a teacher who chose to speak about a person who is LGBT and how that formed their work could get in trouble for speaking about that aspect of a person’s life, as it may be viewed as controversial.
In high school, students are in an intense time of learning who they are, and wondering if they are valuable and worthy human beings. For those who realize they are LGBT, and dare to live accordingly, the snide comments are the least of it. Right now, that student could go to a trusted adult in the school, tell them what is happening, and that adult could find that because of these loopholes, there is no recourse.
As a parent I want amazing teachers for my child. As a former student I know how important they can be. As someone who values diversity I want my child’s teachers to be able to speak about their families, their beliefs, their lives, in passing -- to be who they are so my child can learn from them. This diversity includes those who are LGBT. Right now, a teacher who mentions his spouse to his students, just like all teachers do, but who also happens to be gay, could have a parent who is against same-sex marriage decide that they do not want their children exposed to that. Even though many would believe one person’s right to keep their children sheltered from alternate viewpoints ends where another person’s legal marriage and family arrangement begins, the policies are not there, and the loophole is vast.
My child is in Mansfield ISD and I have valued the diversity at her school so much. What if my child has friends whose parents are gay? What if my child has teachers who are gay? What if my child is gay? What will my child learn from how the institution that controls her education handles diversity?
In order to protect and support every student and teacher, the FFI Local, FFH Local, and DIA local policies MUST be amended to include sexual orientation, gender expression, and gender identity in the freedom from bullying and discrimination, harassment, and retaliation policies.
Rev. Dr. Katie Hays, MISD parent, pastor, and taxpayer
My husband and I have lived here for eight years. Our daughter graduated from MHS in the top 10% of her class last year and is a freshman in TCU’s Honors College. Our son is a junior at MHS and was inducted into the National Honor Society a few weeks ago. But what I’m most proud of is that both of my kids were founding members of the MHS Gay-Straight Alliance.