HSE board approves non-discrimination policy that adds gender identity as protected class

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FISHERS, Ind. – The Hamilton Southeastern School Board voted to approve changes to its non-discrimination/equal opportunity policy Wednesday night.

New, amended language lists gender identity instead of the previous “gender nonconformity” as a protected class. Race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, age and disability are also listed.

It also removes “unlawful” as a qualifier for harassment and discrimination. The full text of the new policy can be found here.

The move comes after comments made by the vice president of the board sparked controversy.

At an April board meeting, VP Slyvia Shepler said the following about the issue: “It’s now becoming more and more acceptable that it’s cool and popular. Why is this condition acceptable now and not in the past?”

Hamilton Southeastern Schools released this statement before Wednesday’s board meeting:

“Our primary responsibility as a school corporation is to educate each of our students. It is our duty to protect them from harassment and to provide them with an environment in which they will succeed. To be clear, we do not tolerate acts of harassment, and we strictly adhere to all pertaining non-discrimination and anti-harassment laws as prescribed in our procedures. Our school board members are considering an update to a current policy that has received strong viewpoints on either side. As they progress toward a resolution, we will continue to build on our efforts to educate our school community about issues of discrimination.”

Now that the policy has been amended, HSEqual says it can now support the policy. The group has been working to ensure the “passage of a fully inclusive non-discrimination/equal opportunity policy” by HSE.

The group issued this statement before Wednesday’s meeting:

HSEqual now supports the amended non-discrimination/equal opportunity policy that the Hamilton Southeastern School Board will vote on at the meeting at 7 p.m. tonight. The agenda was updated on the board’s website at approximately noon today with two amendments.

The new language lists “gender identity” (instead of the previous “gender nonconformity”) as a protected class and strikes “unlawful” from the latter half of the policy. HSEqual urged the board to pass the policy as amended.

The parents, students, residents, and allies in HSEqual are proud that the Board was able to write an inclusive policy that does not leave out transgender students. We believe this is a huge step in the right direction for the board and administration and are ready and willing to work with the school corporation to make sure all of our students are treated equally and feel safe in their schools.

The school board said they would have a statement after the vote at Wednesday’s meeting, which began at 7 p.m.

Fishers Mayor Scott Fadness issued the following statement.

“I commend the action of the school board tonight to adopt a new non-discriminatory policy that ensures all students have protections against discrimination and demonstrates to all students that they have the support of their school community. Thank you to the board members who worked on the new non-discriminatory language and who listened to the students, teachers and public.

As Fishers has grown, so has our diversity. And that is something we should celebrate and recognize. We must continually strive to create a culture of respect and inclusiveness in our schools and throughout our city. There is more we can do to ensure every person knows they are valued, welcome, and respected as an important member of our vibrant city.

No matter who you are or what you believe, we are neighbors. We are one community. There is more work that needs to be done toward that goal. Tonight is one important step forward.”

Video from a previous story below:

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