Relations Policy Includes Homosexual Discrimination

October 28, 1990|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Staff writer

Robert Healy left the school board meeting Thursday night pleased that a ban on discrimination against homosexuals had been added to the school system's human relations policy, but unhappy with board member Dana F.

Hanna's unsuccessful attempt to reword the policy.

"I'm pleased that the board passed the policy with the revision in it," said Healy, a Columbia resident who was one of several speakers that encouraged the board to include provisions for homosexuals in its policy at an Oct. 11 public hearing.

Healy, an acknowledged homosexual, said he was concerned that Hanna's proposed change would not have specified that the board will not tolerate discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, which to Healy was a key point in the policy.

Hanna said Healy misunderstood the intent. The school board member said he wanted a general statement similar to the county government's human rights policy.

Regulations accompanying the policy would specifically ban discrimination based on race, creed, religion, age, sex, physical or mental disability, color, national origin, occupation, marital status, political opinion, personal appearance or sexual orientation.

"I wanted to say, 'We will not tolerate or condone any bias or act of disrespect toward any person.' To me, that is more of an inclusionary statement than the policy as we adopted it," Hanna said.

Hanna's colleagues on the board vetoed his proposal with the objection that it linked school policy to county human rights policy.

Vice Chairman Deborah D. Kendig agreed with Hanna that lists can be seen as excluding anyone not specifically listed, but said she did not want to see the school system "tie our policy to county government law changes so that it is automatic. Then we lose control."

The ban on discrimination against gays and lesbians was the major change in the draft policy revisions originally presented to the board in September by Human Relations Director Kathleen Griffin.

That change was needed to insure that homosexual students do not face discrimination as they discover their sexuality in adolescence, speakers told the board at the Oct. 11 public hearing on the policy.

Healy reiterated the point last week, observing that studies show homosexual adolescents more likely to commit suicide than heterosexual teen-agers.

"They need a school environment where they can be accepted for themselves," he said. "It sends the wrong message to heterosexual students if you tell them it's all right to discriminate against gays."

The final policy also contained specific bans on discrimination on the bases of religion, marital status, political opinion and personal appearance which were not included in the version introduced in September.

Violations of the policy could lead to reprimands, suspension or termination for students or school employees.

People who testified at the hearing earlier this month said homosexuals make up about 10 percent of the general population.

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