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Posted on Tue, Oct 12, 2010 : 5:45 a.m.

Saline school board to tackle divisive non-discrimination policy change tonight

By Tara Cavanaugh

The Saline school board tonight will consider adding six words to the district's policy prohibiting discrimination on the basis of various characteristics.

The possible addition of those words, “sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression,” has launched a debate in the community over what constitutes bullying and discrimination and how much protection gay students need.

The school board has heard testimonials about bullying and student safety, been threatened with a lawsuit, and listened to comments of support for and opposition to the policy change from members of the community.

Pushing for the change are students who belong to Spectrum, a gay/straight alliance at Saline High School, who brought the issue to a school board committee in June.

On the other side are community members and some board members who say the district's anti-bullying policy provides gay students will all the protection they need.

Is there a problem?

Saline High School has just two reports of harassment based on sexual orientation on file. A teacher reported an incident in a classroom in which a student left a graphic drawing to describe the word “gay” on a card.

Another incident, reported by junior Katie Slawson, the daughter of school board member Lisa Slawson, involved students' participation in the national Day of Silence, a day in which participants remain silent to raise awareness of issues affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning students. On that day, April 16, Slawson, who is straight, said she and a friend were harassed by another student who whispered inappropriate comments in their ears in class and later screamed slurs across the lunchroom to try to upset them enough to break their silence.

“Throughout the whole class period the student used homophobic slurs to describe us. At one point the student got really close and up to my ear and started saying these things. And he took this really scary tone. It was really intimidating. The kind of words he was using, they don’t have a place in school,” Slawson said.

That’s the evidence on paper. Students also tell other stories.

As a freshman, Sarah Snay said she dared to hold her girlfriend’s hand in the hallways. The response she got was like facing a firing squad, she said.

“We got shoved. People looked us up and down. Gave us rude looks. ‘Fag,’ ‘dyke’—all that stuff was said.”

Snay, now a junior, said she was scared, hurt, and confused. “Besides holding hands we didn’t do anything. It wasn’t making out in the hallways. Which straight couples do all the time,” she said. Snay did not report the incident, because it didn’t seem too big of a deal to her at the time. She thought people like her would just be treated that way.

Katie Slawson reported the the Day of Silence incident, and thinks that the administration gave it the full investigation and attention it needed. But she doesn’t know what, if any, punishment the student received.

“I know the student didn’t get suspended, because he was at school for the next whole week,” she said.

Ben Williams, principal, could not discuss the nature of the student’s punishment but said he “definitely felt it was appropriate.”

Complaints have surfaced before this year as well.

Casey Lee, a 2008 graduate and former president of Spectrum, remembers the high school climate as “hostile.”

Lee, a lesbian, said a student used to follow her around at lunch and taunt her: “Queer. Queer. Queer. Queer,.” the student would say. She said members of the male tennis team called her an ugly name because she was close friends with one of their teammates. She said every year, on the Day of Silence, her posters would end up in the toilets or get hidden in the library.

“Which is really frustrating because I also founded the recycling club,” she said. “I was like, if you’re going to hate on the gay people, at least recycle the signs.”

Lee often talked with the high school administration about improving the high school climate, but “I got a real sense from them that their hands were tied,” she said. “They didn’t like what was going on but they really weren’t sure where to go, because of the current policies in place, and the people they or I would have to go to, to make the changes, wouldn’t allow that to happen.”

In 2000, before Lee was a high school student, Lila Howard, an advanced placement psychology teacher, conducted a survey of the then-1,700-student school.

To the prompt, “This school is safe for students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender,” 37% responded “not at all,” and 35% responded “some of the time.”

The lack of a sense of safety hit Debbie Budnik, an advanced-placement U.S. history teacher, four years ago. A group of boys were talking to each other before her class started. She heard them talk about beating up someone if they discovered that person was gay.

She said she heard violent, angry statements like, “If I found somebody and I knew they were gay, I’d beat (them).”

“It totally caught me off guard,” Budnik said. “I couldn’t believe it. So I know that sentiment’s out there. They would not have said it in a regular discussion.

“The group of boys made me fearful,” she said, “so I can’t imagine how it made other kids in the class feel.”

In her 26 years as a teacher in Saline, she said she's seen two groups of students targeted: “severely handicapped youngsters, and the kids who are or are perceived to be gay.”

This is why she thinks that the school district should change the non-discrimination policy. “I think it’s symbolic,” she said. “And it’s coming from the top down.”

But not everyone agrees the policy needs to be changed.


Paul Hynek

Paul Hynek, who is on the policy committee, which first heard the request to change the wording, did not vote in support of bringing the proposed change to the full board.

“I don’t think adding those words to that policy will effectively change anything," he said. Instead the district should work harder to teach tolerance and enforce its anti-bullying policy.

He said he doesn't like the idea of adding "lists" of people to the policy. “Someone will come next and say, Why am I not included in this list, I don’t feel represented,” he said.

Hynek acknowledged that it’s not possible to eliminate a list entirely, because some of the words on the list represent federally protected statuses.

“I guess my thought is, they’ve been asking to change the discrimination policy. And from what I’ve heard I don’t think anyone’s been discriminated against,” Hynek said.

“I do feel that people have been bullied and harassed. But I’m thinking they’re not the only group in the high school that gets bullied and harassed,” he said.


Craig Hoeft

Board Trustee Craig Hoeft, also the Saline fire chief, agrees.

“What I’ve heard from them is they’re being bullied and harassed. I really didn’t catch anything as far as discrimination,” Hoeft said. “It sounded to me like not feeling safe means somebody’s picking on them. Somebody’s bullying them. So I think that’s where we need to go first.”

“I think we need to enforce what we have, we need to go above and beyond, because it’s a national problem, bullying, and… I think the biggest thing we need to do is educate our staff, our students, and our community. And we all have to take a part in it,” Hoeft said.

Hynek said he believes much of the opposition to the proposed policy change stems from people's lack of acceptance of homosexuality.

“It’s a cultural issue, it’s a tolerance issue. In a lot of ways our society is not prepared for it at all,” Hynek said.

The board has heard from community members who echo that sentiment. During public comment at the Sept. 28 meeting, Gary Perrydore said sexuality, gender identity and gender expression “aren’t issues of race, they’re issues of features. He said if the policy continues down this road, redheads and people with freckles would need to be added as well.

At that same meeting, residents Kathy and Paul Dobrowolski, whose son was bullied in high school, said they tried to work with the school, but they never asked for special protections for their son. “If all forms of harassment are wrong, then all forms of harassment without distinction should be banned,” Kathy Dobrowolski said. “We should be focusing our time and energy on protecting all our children through better implementation of the current school policy.”

Will a change be effective?

The current policy states that "no student will be denied the benefits of, or participation in, educational activities on the basis of sex, race, religion, marital status, disability, height or weight." The students of Spectrum want to add “sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression” to that list.

The policy, even if changed, does not technically have any bearing on bullying or harassment. Those are addressed by the anti-bullying policy.

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Scot Graden

The current policy also means that at the moment, an employee of the district could discriminate against a student on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression without consequence, Superintendent Scot Graden said.

For example, an impressive volleyball player could be cut from a team because a coach does not like that she is a lesbian.

“Right now there is would be no formal recourse for that (situation),” Graden said.

Under state and federal law, sexual orientation and gender identity is not yet a protected class. This is one of the many reasons board trustee Lisa Slawson supports changing the policy. “Your state representatives will never see it’s a problem if you don’t tell them it’s a problem,” she said.

“I’ve always said being on the school board is grassroots at its finest. At its most elemental level. I don’t think we need to be afraid of taking those risks.”

Discrimination, bullying and fee speech

The district's anti-bullying policy applies to LGBTQ students.

In the student handbook, the harassment policy says “Harassment or ‘bullying’ is any gesture or written, verbal, graphic or physical act… that is reasonably perceived as being motivated either by any actual or perceived characteristic, such as race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression; or a mental, physical or sensory disability or impairment; or by any other distinguishing characteristic.”

The problem with the suggestion to better enforce the policy, Graden said, is that so little is reported. The two reported incidents were addressed by the district.

Another concern, brought up by several community members at meetings, is First Amendment rights. If the policy were changed, would it trample on students’ or staff’s ability to say certain words or express their beliefs, if they do not believe in equal rights for gays?

“Schools cannot ban political speech unless it is disruptive to the school’s educational mission,” said Lisa Peterson, an attorney from Ann Arbor.

Teachers and students can express themselves, but teachers cannot suppress or censor a student’s expression, Peterson said. The teacher may not make a student choose between protected expressions and achieving academically.

For example, if a student participates in the Day of Silence, the teacher needs to accommodate the student’s self-expression, which is in the form of a vow of silence for that day.

“It is my understanding Day of Silence participants submit written answers or responses to achieve academically while engaging in protected political expression,” Peterson said.

A teacher can express that he doesn’t agree with the Day of Silence, “but the teacher cannot require that the student forgo his or her own expression, in this instance silence, and require verbal classroom participation. To do so is very likely a First Amendment violation,” Peterson said.

Going forward

Even after the vote, the issue is not likely to go away, both sides say.

“Whether it passes or not, I don’t think… that [an issue like this] won’t come up again,” board trustee Hynek said.

Emma Upham, president of Spectrum, agrees. If the policy isn’t changed, “We’ll just keep fighting,” she said. And if it is changed, “We’re not just going to leave it at this. Words on a paper are awesome, but they’re not the point. The point is to help everyone be safer, everyone be respected,” even when there are differences of opinion, she said.

Members of Spectrum already believe they have had a positive influence on their high school community. Sixty-seven teachers and staff members signed their petition in support of changing the policy.

The Spectrum group is also passing around a student petition. Katie Slawson said she first got her artsy friends to sign the petition, and had to work up the nerve to ask groups of athletic kids around school.

“Then I started to go up to kids from football team, and soccer players, the cheerleaders, and they all did,” she said, smiling.

Brenna Stow, a senior, said, “I don’t know if I’m necessarily comfortable with [the LGBTQ lifestyle].” She paused. “I don’t have anything against it. If that’s who you are, that’s fine. That’s not who I am, but you can live how you want.”

Stow ended up signing the petitioin. “Everyone should be treated equally, so I don’t think it’s a bad thing at all,” she said.



Tue, Oct 12, 2010 : 10:58 p.m.

@Robert- you asked who didn't support the change. It was a bunch of semantic rhetoric about "policy" and "inclusion". There was not much new to this story. If you have a member on the policy committee who doesn't think that policy can change anything...well, doesn't that speak for itself?


Tue, Oct 12, 2010 : 10:25 p.m.

So, despite the rash of suicides of homosexual teenagers, our school board chose tonight to stick their heads in the sand and deny that this group of individuals is in need of special protection against discrimination, the same as blacks and women and religious groups, etc. have been singled out for extra protection. Also despite 2 hours of public comment where only THREE spoke in opposition to changing the wording of policy. So disappointing. When are those school board elections?


Tue, Oct 12, 2010 : 10:24 p.m.

So, despite the rash of suicides of homosexual teenagers, our school board chose tonight to stick their heads in the sand and deny that this group of individuals is in need of special protection against discrimination, the same as blacks and women and religious groups, etc. have been singled out for extra protection. Also despite 2 hours of public comment where only THREE spoke in opposition to changing the wording of policy. So disappointing. When are those school board elections?


Tue, Oct 12, 2010 : 10:11 p.m.

How did the school board members individually vote? What were some of the comments from the people that were not in favor of the change?


Tue, Oct 12, 2010 : 9:57 p.m.

Mom in Town: do you realize that currently it is "okay" --or legal by language--- for LGBTQ folk to be bullied or harassed? Meaning that if you're in the boat for no one being discriminated against... you are in the boat that wouldn't be happy about the 4-3 vote. I think... this is what you are saying. Is it?


Tue, Oct 12, 2010 : 9:55 p.m.

I have no idea where people got this idea that the discrimination policy would have affected staff and faculty. Everything has to be negotiated through the teachers and support staff unions. There was never a chance that it would affect them, only the student discrimination policy was looked at. Now it is time to move on from this issue and look at ways to curb bullying. After all of this, at least more students should be aware that there is a firm harassment policy. Maybe more people will use it to get help if they are being harassed.

Mom in Town

Tue, Oct 12, 2010 : 9:36 p.m.

Topher- I have read the other comments on this, and again I have to say, NO ONE should be discriminated against.

Mom in Town

Tue, Oct 12, 2010 : 9:28 p.m.

Again, who said that Saline is afraid? I am sorry, but I live in this town, and I think that you should be allowed to be who you are without fear of being bullied or made fun of. Period. If you are gay or straigt, Christian or Muslim, short, fat, tall, skinny, whatever! If I happend to disagree with your lifestyle that does not in any way make me a hate monger or afraid of you. I will treat you with respect and dignity, and ask that others do the same for me. Just because the gay community didn't get specific language in an anti-discrimination policy does not mean it is OK to label me as a citizen of this town as "mostly white afraid town folk"


Tue, Oct 12, 2010 : 9:23 p.m.

Mom in Town - The policy isn't simply about anti-bullying. Read the rest of the comments here - it's also about anti-discrimination for gay staff and employees.


Tue, Oct 12, 2010 : 9:21 p.m.

I'm not surprised by Saline, just disappointed. Employee rights are out the window as sasquatch points out. All the gay employees and staff members will continue being silent and working for the conservative, mostly white, afraid town folk of Saline. I fear that the Christian biases have taken over as I have difficulty rationalizing why there wouldn't be an anti-discrimination policy in effect. Saline better get ready for a fight- I have little doubt that the ACLU will get involved in what essentially comes down to a separation of church and state. I'm just glad I am not a part of that community.


Tue, Oct 12, 2010 : 9:20 p.m.

This marks a very sad day in our community's history. Protecting and loving and allowing a FAPE for all our children is the right thing to do.

Mom in Town

Tue, Oct 12, 2010 : 9:17 p.m.

Who said it was a vote that the gay and lesbian teachers weren't worth as much as their straight counterparts?!?! It was a vote to include EVERYONE in the non-bullying, not just a specific group. I don't think that makes Saline small-town fear mongering hicks. Sorry.


Tue, Oct 12, 2010 : 8:54 p.m.

The language was not added. The vote was 4-3. I feel for the homosexual teachers who have basically been told by their boss, you aren't worth the same as the other teachers. Well, department of fear and hate, while you hide behind the 'it isn't going to change things anyway, what is the big deal' charade, you got what you wanted. Nothing to see here. Just another small, white conservative school district. Funny, lots from the outside thought you might actually be different. Sure there are pockets of compassion for all, but this vote rings loud to me for some reason.


Tue, Oct 12, 2010 : 8:33 p.m.

Steven harper, it seems you are a perfect example of why bullying is so prevelant. If you don't have a written directive it seems you feel it uneccessary to act to protect the children or promote a cooperative attitude. I think you are missing the point folks are making.....if it has to be put in writing for an educator to excersice "common sense" then that person isn't much of an educator, but rather in need of an education.

Mom in Town

Tue, Oct 12, 2010 : 8:27 p.m.

"--Do you support removing the clause about bullying or discriminating based on religion, gender, race, or handicap? --Did you realize that the new clause protects gay and lesbian teachers from losing their jobs? --Do you support being able to fire teachers over their sexual orientation? I'm guessing the answer to all three of these is "yes," which speaks volumes about your real attitudes and motives." You are wrong Steven. I would say that NO a teacher should not be fired over their sexual orientation. Sexual orientation should not be brought up in the classroom, period. Heterosexual or Homosexual. If you want to refer to your "partner" or your "wife/husband" whatever. Shouldn't matter. And I would not have a problem if the language in the policy stated that BULLYING should not be tolerated no matter what. Religion, class, etc. etc. should be irrelevant. Bullying is bullying period. If the teachers are doing their jobs, they should have no worries about being fired. I consider myself a Christian and ALL of us have "fallen short of the glory of God" including myself, and I think that we ALL deserve respect. That doesn't mean I need to agree with you or you with me, but as long as we can all treat each other with respect I think that is what is important.

Steven Harper Piziks

Tue, Oct 12, 2010 : 7:51 p.m.

True. To those who vehemently oppose this change on the grounds that it creates a "special category" of kids, I ask: --Do you support removing the clause about bullying or discriminating based on religion, gender, race, or handicap? --Did you realize that the new clause protects gay and lesbian teachers from losing their jobs? --Do you support being able to fire teachers over their sexual orientation? I'm guessing the answer to all three of these is "yes," which speaks volumes about your real attitudes and motives.


Tue, Oct 12, 2010 : 7:16 p.m.

If the (religious?) conservatives who are here to vent over the proposed text addition honestly believe it to be meaningless, then why bother expending even a moment's energy to pound away at one's keyboard? If it will truly make no difference, then why not move along and direct one's attention to something else? Or do other motivations hide behind this talking point? As Ed's Ghost indicated up above, the greater the level of objection, the more that the LGBT language is needed in the district's anti-discrimination policy.

Jonny Spirit

Tue, Oct 12, 2010 : 7:08 p.m.

The meeting was tonight right? Does anybody know what happened?


Tue, Oct 12, 2010 : 6:25 p.m.

this is a total breakthrough, now all kids will treat other kids who are different from them as equals. thank you saline for changing the world.


Tue, Oct 12, 2010 : 6:22 p.m.

You can add all the words you want to all the documents you want but we already have plenty of laws, rules, and even the constitution that prevent "bullying". People allow others to pick on those who are weaker just because they can. Sticking someones head in a toilet is assault, regardless of the reason. There will always be bullies, what we don't have are people who can overcome their fear who will stand up to them and confront their unacceptable behaviour, rather than cheer them on. Their are other contributing factors to the bullying syndrome and "words" won't change the dangerous attitudes that are the underlying problems that allow bullying to take place.


Tue, Oct 12, 2010 : 4:45 p.m.

@Mitch But, Mitch, explain why LGBT kids deserve special protection? Shouldn't all kids receive equal protection? Which, I believe, the Saline policy currently does...

Bob Needham

Tue, Oct 12, 2010 : 4:01 p.m.

(Comment removed because it contained masked swearing)


Tue, Oct 12, 2010 : 2:12 p.m.

UGH! YES! - bullying is addressed already, in the student handbook, under the bullying and harrassment statement. At question is the DISCRIMINATION policy statement in the SCHOOL BOARD POLICY MANUAL, which currently reads: "The District will not discriminate against any person based on sex, race, color, national origin, religion, height, weight, marital status, handicap, age, or disability. The Board reaffirms its long-standing policy of compliance with all applicable federal and state laws and regulations prohibiting discrimination including, but not limited to, Titles VI and VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000d. et seq.; and 42 U.S.C. 2000e, et seq.; Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. 1681, et seq.; Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. 794; The Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. 1210, et seq.; the Persons with Disabilities Civil Rights Act, MCL 37.1101, et seq.; and the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, MCL 37.2101, et seq."


Tue, Oct 12, 2010 : 2:08 p.m.

If the Saline School Board makes this change to their policy and creates this special class of student, then I want a special catagory created for my son who is a tall, skinny, buck-toothed cross country runner who has one green brown eye...and really bad breath. He gets bullied all the time at Saline. But, until now, I didn't know he could get special treatment.


Tue, Oct 12, 2010 : 1:41 p.m.

Are there any persons against whom bullying is OK? If not, then there's no need to list any types of persons in the rule. If bullying is wrong against everybody, then no additional details or clarifications are needed.


Tue, Oct 12, 2010 : 1:07 p.m.

The article does a good job of bringing up the fact that there is no repercussion for a teacher or administrator that discriminates against an LGBTQ student (whether obvious or not). Saline reports only two incidents of harassment based on sexual orientation, but I highly question that these statistics represent what is actually going on. If there is not an environment where oppressed students can safely meet with adults, which is the environment that Saline seems to have, students will not feel comfortable reporting incidents to adults. This is a matter of school climate and creating a space that is for all students (especially those that are oppressed). What the article again leaves out, as has done several times, is the fact that a teacher or administrator can be fired for being gay. There are no rights in place for gay teachers in Saline as there are in Ann Arbor Public Schools which has this written into their anti-discrimination policy. Gay teachers cannot share any personal information about themselves with their students (whereas straight teachers have no qualms about telling students about their spouses, children, and posting photos of their significant others) without what would result in major issues from administration and extremely conservative parents. It also becomes a loss for gay students who do not have a safe space to talk with actual healthy, successful gay adults. I would be absolutely shocked if there is even one out teacher in Saline. My guess is that it would be career suicide, and that is extremely sad to consider. It's also sad to consider all of the LGBTQ students who have no one to talk to - and we wonder why there are so many suicides.


Tue, Oct 12, 2010 : 11:35 a.m.

@Announcerman007 "Seriously, if anyone thinks that changing a few lines is going to stop or change anything, you are dead wrong." I guess I'm glad folks in the past didn't believe this, with regard to abolishing slavery, suffrage, civil rights, etc. Did "changing a lines" SUDDENLY change anything? No. But it sets a framework in place for change to take place. Things have gotten better for the formally disenfranchised sectors of society. Has it been because of "a few words?" Probably, but also because it sets the expectations of a forward thinking society. I grew up thinking that women can and should be able to vote. Why? My parents, of course, but also because I wasn't surrounded by folks saying "Why bother? It isn't going to change anything" or "what's next, horses getting the right to vote?" Bullying will probably continue as it did before. It is bigger than sexual orientation. It is a product of our society. The board needs to make is showing they support ALL students. To think that this isn't the new civil rights battle (equity for all people, regardless, of sex, race, height, weight, disability, who you love and commit your life to) would be as you put, naive. Have gays and lesbians undergone the similar treatment of minorities in the past? Is it fair to compare the two? I don't have the context to answer that, as I'm neither a minority nor a homosexual. But a society (and yes, schools are a big part of our societal context) that appreciates and accepts all is coming, and in some cases has already arrived. "A few lines" or not.


Tue, Oct 12, 2010 : 11:34 a.m.

Are all of the Board members who are against this heterosexual white Christian men? People who aren't in groups traditionally discriminated against are often not very sensitive to those who are, because they just can't relate. Then again, sometimes those who have been discriminated against are misery that loves company. The requested modification has the potential to not only protect but make some students feel more welcome, which makes it easier for them to learn. What's wrong with that?


Tue, Oct 12, 2010 : 11:21 a.m.

so, you don't think it's necessary, or that it will make a change? then what difference does it make to you to change the language? why fight something like this, that can actually make gay and lesbian students feel safer (I am speaking from my own experience) because they have their recourse clearly spelled out-especially if it doesn't put anybody out in any way? I just don't understand fighting against something like this. Don't we want all of our children safe at school? Don't we want them all to know that their schools care about them? If you think it doesn't matter, then just shut up about it.

Jay Allen

Tue, Oct 12, 2010 : 10:36 a.m.

Seriously, if anyone thinks that changing a few lines is going to stop or change anything, you are dead wrong. If anything, bringing more attention to it will have a larger negative affect. The State of Michigan does not have anything like this. People have said the State will not do anything until people let them know there is a problem. Really? So Saline should pass an unemployment act so Lansing "knows" we have a problem? If a child is going to get picked on, then words on paper at school board meeting are not going to change that. The issue is far greater than that and I am amazed that a few that support this are so naive.


Tue, Oct 12, 2010 : 10:33 a.m.

@sasquatch Well said. I agree with you.


Tue, Oct 12, 2010 : 9:54 a.m.

why can't there be a rule against bullying... why does it have to be for specific bullying. What next a rule to prevent the bullying of 21st level half-elven fighter/magic-user/thieves?

Stephen Landes

Tue, Oct 12, 2010 : 9:51 a.m.

Rather than increasing the list of characteristics which may not be excuses for depriving someone of educational opportunities why not eliminate the list so the policy reads....... "No student will be denied the benefits of, or participation in, educational activities except for failure to meet published and approved participation guidelines and standards." No "volley ball" player could be denied the opportunity to play based on any personal characteristic as long as he or she meets the activity requirements (grades, team rules on making practices, etc). If some coach is determined to find a way to get a supposed lesbian off the team then no policy statement is going to stand in the way. What will stand in the way of such abuse is a real, substantial, authoritative review and discipline process within the school -- a chance for a student to make their case that actions taken against them are abuse and not due to their failure to meet requirements. No policy is going to be perfect. What we can do is craft a policy statement based on principle. Attempting to enshrine in a policy a complete list of protected rights or conditions is doomed to failure -- something will always be left out.


Tue, Oct 12, 2010 : 9:46 a.m.

Speechless - I completely agree. 1. The anti-bullying, harrassment and discrimination statements in ALL Saline school documents should be worded as similarly as possible to one another - whatever that wording is. Since some of these statements address student behavior and some address administration, teacher, staff and school board member behavior they should be worded the same so that EVERYONE IS PLAYING BY THE SAME RULES, students and adults alike. 2. If the board does not vote to ammend the discrimination statement to add the 6 words requested, then all the anti-bullying, harrassment and discrimination statements should be revised to be more generic, take the specifics out of ALL OF THE STATEMENTS SO THAT EVERYONE IS PLAYING BY THE SAME RULES.


Tue, Oct 12, 2010 : 9:43 a.m.

In my mind, bullying and harassment are acts of discrimination. One person harasses or bullies another to humiliate and isolate her/him because he is gay, of a different race or religion, etc. Bullying and harassment, as acts of discrimination, occur as frequently in the adult world as they do in our schools. What is posting a persons sexual acts on the internet but another form of bullying and harassment? In the case of people who are gay or lesbian, the real world outcome, whether in the community or in the classroom, is that they are set upon because they are gay. Why is this OK? Why is it OK to fire or refuse to hire a person because she/he is a lesbian or gay? Why is it OK to harass and bully a public school student because he/she is gay or a lesbian? Why do we expect our kids to get over bullying and harassing gays when we havent been able to do so ourselves? When we examine the history of our nations religious or racial bigotry, we discover that we have not been able to change our conduct as a society until we have implemented laws that protect those who have borne the weight and scars of our bigotry. We are at the same place now for gays and lesbians. They will continue to be at risk of bullying, harassment, serious injury and even death until our society says enough is enough. We say that through our laws and policies. The proposed addition of these seven words, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, is the next logical progression in developing a local, state and national policy that says it is not OK to bully, harass or otherwise discriminate against people who are gay. Until we have the courage to protect gays and lesbians through our laws and policies, the danger to them will continue. Calvin Luker


Tue, Oct 12, 2010 : 9:24 a.m.

Here is the proposal change to the anti-discrimination wording: "...The current policy states that "no student will be denied the benefits of, or participation in, educational activities on the basis of sex, race, religion, marital status, disability, height or weight." The students of Spectrum want to add "sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression" to that list...." Now take note of the district's existing anti-bullying policy: "... In the student handbook, the harassment policy says Harassment or bullying is any gesture or written, verbal, graphic or physical act that is reasonably perceived as being motivated either by any actual or perceived characteristic, such as race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression; or a mental, physical or sensory disability or impairment; or by any other distinguishing characteristic." The proposed text change will bring the Saline district's anti-discrimination policy more in line with its anti-bullying policy, so it makes plenty of sense for the school board to approve it. What actually confuses me is why the two above lists are not identical, or nearly so. There is no good reason for anti-discrimination policy to intentionally be made much less inclusive. For instance, someone who bullies another based on personal ancestry has violated school policy, yet technically a student can be kept out of a school activity due to ancestry. Given the wording in the anti-bullying policy, the proposal to be voted on tonight ought to be longer than six words. It should be amended to add categories from the Saline anti-bullying policy not yet included in the district's anti-discrimination policy.


Tue, Oct 12, 2010 : 9:22 a.m.

The current policy states that "no student will be denied the benefits of, or participation in, educational activities on the basis of sex, race, religion, marital status, disability, height or weight." The students of Spectrum want to add sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression to that list. I find it rich that folks like to joke about being bald, or having red hair as such an absurd thing to protect, and equating it with sexual orientation. Is just that this topic is all over the news (bullying related to sexual orientation) that has everyone losing their mind? Joking about having red hair, has there been an uptick in redheads reporting feeling unsafe at school? There hasn't. These folks are the same who feel that if same sex marriage was legal, folks would want to marry their pets. Same sex marriage is legal in some states, and stories on folks marrying their dog? No, there haven't. I'm starting to feel like Fear is the only export America has left. Notice in the policy there is height and weight, and marital status. As I've said in other posts, if they don't include sexual orientation, they should take out all the other wording. After all, it doesn't seem fair. It's "common sense" as some point out here. It doesn't take long in a history class to realize that what passed as "common sense" decades ago is now looked at as divisive and discriminatory (legally or otherwise). It comes down to basic civility and compassion for your fellow man. You either have it or you don't. They aren't asking for special rights, just rights to a safe environment like everyone else. High school is already a difficult time for young people and is becoming more difficult. The academic and social pressures in Saline are no different than anywhere else. The uproar about fixing schools is getting its turn in the media cycle, it seems that providing an atmosphere for learning for ALL students would be paramount. Tall, skinny, white, female, married, Christian students. The same should be said for sexual orientation. We're the ones supposedly setting the examples for these young people. I hope the Board remembers this tonight. @local feels like school happens in a vacuum, where learning the basics is all that happens. If only it was that simple. Schools provide food and clothing for some students who can't afford it. Schools provide a controlled environment for students to learn how to interact with peers and figures of authority. My grade school student is learning about telling the truth, helping people out. While he learns this at home too, schools help reinforce these behaviors. I hope schools would also help my son realize that folks are different, and that as he grows up he'll meet all kinds. Showing respect for those differences can come in many forms. Changing school policy is but one. One that can provide a framework for an environment for all to learn. The board dragging their feet has made it much more of an issue than it needs to be. Make the right decision and move on with what is important in a school district: an opportunity to learn.

Steven Harper Piziks

Tue, Oct 12, 2010 : 9:21 a.m.

@InsideTheHall, Well, if you feel that strongly about it, why don't you go before the Saline school board and propose it, like this group has done?


Tue, Oct 12, 2010 : 8:48 a.m.

While we are at adding impacted classes of people lets demand that discrimination and bullying against red heads be added. Red heads have been discriminated since the potato famine in Ireland. Being subjected to being called Red, Paddy Potato, Mick, and Carrot Top is a terrible blow to a young person's self esteem. But of all the humiliation red heads have to endure the worst is being subjected to a "noogie" against their will. This consitutes bullying and assault!


Tue, Oct 12, 2010 : 8:35 a.m.

Kids could focus on reading, writing and math if they weren't harassed because of some biased belief. In addition to that if parents would do their jobs to teach their kids differences in people then the schools wouldn't have to do it. I bet if you interviewed any of the parents of the kids who are committing the harassment you would find the same sentiment. That is the true problem, the parents are just as immature as the kids. On another note, to comment on what Mr. Perrydore said, why shouldn't sexual orientation be listed for non-discrimination if religion is on the list? If sexual orientation is a feature then so it religion. Both are unlike race based on his argument, but religion is still protected. Religion and sexual orientation are both a way of life and in fact its easier to change your religion than it is to change sexual orientation. To me there needs to be more community education on this topic.

Steven Harper Piziks

Tue, Oct 12, 2010 : 8:30 a.m.

Very odd how people on this forum are resistant to the idea of a school district trying to protect more students from bullying, especially after so many gay students have committed suicide after being victimized at school and received national attention. People have been calling for "common sense," but common sense would dictate people shouldn't harass and bully one another, either. And I don't see how adding sexual orientation to the anti-bullying list is discrimination; it's OFFICIAL recognition by the district that this group gets bullied.

Mia Cents

Tue, Oct 12, 2010 : 8:21 a.m.

Saline..............really. Finally now you recognize that the districts "bullying policy" you have even exists. Very interesting. While the policy is there and parents have been bringing various bullying situations to the district for the past 10 years. The non-gender, non-sexual orientation ones were blown off to "the kids have to work them out" What ever happened to plan old respect! and treat everyone as you want to be treated. You are opening a can of worms adding those 6 words, AND discriminating against the other students. What "words" are they going to use as their specific words for legal protection?

Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball

Tue, Oct 12, 2010 : 8:20 a.m.

... "The policy, even if changed, does not technically have any bearing on bullying or harassment. Those are addressed by the anti-bullying policy." Simply amazing! And the anti-bullying policy does cover this type of bullying! Just another step in the district losing kids to home schooling and private schools.

Basic Bob

Tue, Oct 12, 2010 : 8:03 a.m.

"It needs to be clearly defined for legal purposes." What ever happened to common sense? We shouldn't need to get a legal opinion every time someone's feelings are hurt. Any teacher or administrator should be able to determine whether abusive behavior is occurring, and should be empowered by the district to respond accordingly.

Steven Harper Piziks

Tue, Oct 12, 2010 : 7:33 a.m.

It's difficult for students who are harassed and bullied to learn, which is why schools have to address this issue. Theoretically, students should be taught at home, by their parents, that bullying is wrong, but many parents teach their children intolerance, racism, homophobia, and other cruelties, and the kids bring those lessons to school. The school shouldn't =have= to deal with these issues, but in the absence of good parenting, it is =forced= to. Unfortunately, you can't make a blanket statement about all bullying being disallowed because you'll get someone who says, "Making fun of someone because they're ________ isn't bullying. That's just kids horsing around." It needs to be clearly defined for legal purposes.


Tue, Oct 12, 2010 : 7:07 a.m.

And yet NO mention WHATSOEVER of protecting the folicly challenged from abuse? For SHAME! No hair - unfair! No hair - unfair!


Tue, Oct 12, 2010 : 6:56 a.m.

Attorney Peterson said: "A teacher can express that he doesnt agree with the Day of Silence, but the teacher cannot require that the student forgo his or her own expression, in this instance silence, and require verbal classroom participation. To do so is very likely a First Amendment violation, Peterson said." My suggestion to the students for next years "Day of Silence" is to have 100% participation. See how well that works for ya. But is one day of silence really enough to show support for this cause? I suggest having a "Week of Silence" where not a single student utters a word for a week. See how that works for ya! Can't make the kids talk though as that would violate their "free speech" or "free lack of speech". As Inside The Hall stated, the buidling's on fire and now they are using the fire to make Smores.


Tue, Oct 12, 2010 : 6:12 a.m.

This is a serious situation, but one that has been going on for as long as kids have been kids. By no means am I saying this is okay, but changing wording in a document doesn't change behavior. Like the previous post stated, teachers don't teach curriculum anymore, they are teaching kids respect, how to treat one another, etc... I want my kids to learn to read, write, complete math, etc..., It is my job to teach them the other life lessons of respect and treating others like you would want to be treated. Our are schools becoming counseling grounds, or are they still designed to teach core curriculum?


Tue, Oct 12, 2010 : 5:39 a.m.

Whatever happened to educating kids in reading, writing, and math??? Perhaps that is why the US ranks so low compared to other countries in academic performance. We have a failed public school system that caters to every little group. Bullying is wrong no matter who it is committed against. DONE! One sentence, no special class designation. When it comes to public education, the building is on fire and they are looking for marshmallows!