Indiana school district adds gender identity, orientation to non-discrimination policy after backlash

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A non-binary student taking notes in class.(Photo by Zackary Drucker as part of Broadly's Gender Spectrum Collection)

A non-binary student taking notes in class.(Photo by Zackary Drucker as part of Broadly’s Gender Spectrum Collection)

FISHERS, Ind. — The Hamilton Southeastern Schools school board voted to added gender identity and sexual orientation to its non-discrimination policy a week after a backlash of a member’s comments.

WFYI, a public radio and TV station in Indianapolis, reported that the policy passed 5-2.

The board came under fire after School Board Vice President Sylvia Shepler made comments about sexual orientation and gender identity last month. Shepler had said “rapid onset dysphoria,” apparently referencing the decision to become gay or transgender, is often “seen in clusters” and influenced by students’ peers, social media and media in general during a meeting about a new anti-harassment and discrimination policy.

“Why wasn’t this condition acceptable in the past and is now?” she reportedly asked.

The school district in the suburbs north of Indianapolis came under heavy criticism after the comments went viral. Many of those at the meeting walked out in protest.

WFYI reported that HSE board President Mike Bottorff said hate has no place at their schools and that respect should also be extended to the board members who voted against the policy.

“While deliberating this issue, members of this board have received death threats. Many community members endeavoured to shame — via email or social media — to shame board members into taking a certain position,” Bottorff says. “These are not the actions of an inclusive community. We can and must do better in talking to each other regarding divisive issues.”

Most speaking at the meeting supported the new language, but the Indiana Family Institute, the same organization that had pushed for the disastrous Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 2015, called for a “conscience clause” to be included. According to the radio station, would protect students or teachers from doing things they morally disagree with, like using preferred pronouns.

The amendment was not included with the new policy.




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