'Add the words' talk continues

Nondiscrimination policy to be reviewed by Cd'A school board

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COEUR d'ALENE - The city of Coeur d'Alene's ordinance prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity does not apply to the Coeur d'Alene School District.

But there are several state and federal laws that do afford those protections.

Those are a few of the findings that Marc Lyons, the school board's legal counsel, will present to the district's trustees Monday night during the board's regular monthly meeting.

Last month, the trustees asked Lyons to review the district's non-discrimination policies after a citizen asked the board to overhaul them to include protections for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

The issue has sparked some local controversy.

On Friday morning, board chair Tom Hearn posted about Monday's meeting on his personal Facebook page.

"Contrary to some letters to the editor in recent weeks, there has been no grand 'conspiracy' to bring the 'gay agenda' to the Coeur d'Alene School District," Hearn wrote.

"We have simply been trying to manage a controversial issue."

Hearn wrote that he will ask the board to schedule "a special public meeting on this issue to give the community the opportunity to air its views so we can get other work done that is on the agenda Monday evening."

Members of the public are given the opportunity to comment at all regular monthly meetings of the school board, and comments will be accepted Monday.

Board member Tom Hamilton said he would like to wait until Monday to hear Lyons' presentation before deciding if there will be any more meetings on this issue.

"Mr. Hearn has his opinion and he is entitled to it, but the board needs to discuss this, and the board will decide how we move forward," Hamilton said.

Hamilton said he hasn't heard from many school district patrons on the issue, and that for him, it's not a moral one.

"A trustee has to look at this from a policy perspective and a policy perspective only," Hamilton said.

Superintendent Matt Handelman said he would also like to hear more from the district's attorney on Monday before forming an opinion on the issue.

"I want to make sure every kid, parent and employee feels their rights to be and feel safe are protected," Handelman said.

Lyons' opinion is that school district students, parents and employees are afforded some protection from discrimination based on sex and gender identity under the federal Titles VII and IX.

"OCR (Office for Civil Rights) has found violations of Title IX where students are treated differently because of sexual stereotypes or gender issues," states Lyons, in his PowerPoint presentation.

Some community members who oppose changing the school district's non-discrimination policy have expressed concerns that it will lead to males using the girl's restrooms and vice versa.

According to Lyons' research, the federal Office of Civil Rights recently required a California school district to permit a transgender male student who is biologically female, access to men's restrooms, locker rooms and similar facilities based on protections from discrimination afforded under Title IX.

"OCR has indicated that it would identify harassment due to sexual orientation or gender identity as a violation of Title IX," writes Lyons.

He will end his presentation by reviewing the school district's own policies.

The final slides of his presentation state: "No additional language is required by law to be added to the District's non-discrimination policies."

The Coeur d'Alene School District Board of Trustees meeting will begin at 5 p.m. Monday at the district's Midtown Center Meeting Room, 1505 N. Fifth Street, Coeur d'Alene.

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