Paso Robles school district proposes removing separate LGBTQ bullying protections

·4 min read

The Paso Robles school board is proposing to remove specific protections for LGBTQ+ students in its district regulations.

The move comes almost a year after students at Paso Robles High School ripped a Pride flag from a teacher’s wall and tried to flush it down a toilet — sparking community outrage and leading to the creation of a task force designed to guide the district to better serving its LGBTQ+ students.

Paso Robles Joint Unified School District board members and administrators were scheduled to discuss the proposed changes to district policy at their meeting Tuesday evening beginning at 6 p.m. at the district office.

The original policy was adopted in 2020 and details how the district handles discrimination, harassment and bullying to comply with state and federal laws. The policy also gives examples of what the district considers to be prohibited conduct by students and school staff.

In general, the policy prohibits “unlawful discrimination targeting a student, including discriminatory harassment, intimidation, or bullying, based on the student’s actual or perceived race, color, ancestry, nationality, national origin, immigration status, ethnic group identification, ethnicity, age, religion, marital status, pregnancy, parental status, physical or mental disability, medical condition, sex, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, gender expression, genetic information, or any other legally protected status or association with a person or group with one or more of these actual or perceived characteristics.”

“We are working with counsel to make sure our policies and regulations accurately reflect state mandates to protect all students including those in all protected classes, including LGBTQ,” district Superintendent Curt Dubost wrote to The Tribune via text message. “They (LGBTQ) all still come under anti-discrimination for all, just not listed separately.”

The 2020 version of the policy included a separate section dedicated to “issues unique to intersex, nonbinary, transgender and gender non-conforming students.”

The version the district’s school board is set to consider in Tuesday evening’s meeting drops nearly that entire section.

That section clarified definitions for “gender identity,” “gender expression,” “intersex,” “nonbinary,” “transgender” and “gender non-conforming” students.

The 2020 version also included language clearly explaining that any bullying, harassment or discrimination against LGBTQ students was prohibited.

Students at Paso Robles High School created signs promoting love and inclusion after an incident in which an LGBTQ Pride flag was stolen from a classroom and defecated on. Following the incident, the district changed its policy to limit the size of flag displays.
Students at Paso Robles High School created signs promoting love and inclusion after an incident in which an LGBTQ Pride flag was stolen from a classroom and defecated on. Following the incident, the district changed its policy to limit the size of flag displays.

“The district prohibits acts of verbal, nonverbal or physical aggression, intimidation or hostility that are based on sex, gender identity or gender expression, or that have the purpose or effect of producing a negative impact on the student’s academic performance or of creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive educational environment, regardless of whether the acts are sexual in nature,” the 2020 version of the district policy states.

The 2020 version also includes examples of prohibited conduct, including:

  1. Refusing to address a student by a name and the pronouns consistent with the student’s gender identity;

  2. Disciplining or disparaging a student or excluding the student from participating in activities, for behavior or appearance that is consistent with the student’s gender identity or that does not conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity, as applicable;

  3. Blocking a student’s entry to the restroom that corresponds to the student’s gender identity;

  4. Taunting a student because the student participates in an athletic activity more typically favored by a student of the other sex;

  5. Revealing a student’s gender identity to individuals who do not have a legitimate need for the information, without the student’s consent;

  6. Using gender-specific slurs;

  7. Physically assaulting a student motivated by hostility toward the student because of the student’s gender, gender identity, or gender expression.

Additionally, the 2020 version had guiding procedures on how the district would provide the “same rights, benefits and protections provided to all students by law and board policy.”

This included protecting students’ gender identity, which the district noted was private information in the 2020 version. Such information could only be disclosed with the student’s prior written consent, except in certain circumstances under the law or for the student’s “physical or mental well being,” according to the 2020 policy.

The 2020 version also noted that “the school may form a support team for the student that will meet periodically to assess whether the arrangements for the student are meeting the student’s educational needs and providing equal access to programs and activities, educate appropriate staff about the student’s transition, and serve as a resource to the student to better protect the student from gender-based discrimination.”

While the proposed revision to the policy keeps protections for students to enter sex-segregated facilities such as bathrooms or locker rooms consistent with their gender identity, it removes other protections for transgender, intersex or non-conforming students.

The revised version removes the requirement that district staff must, by the student’s request, address the student by “a name and the pronoun(s) consistent with the student’s gender identity, without the necessity of a court order or a change to the student’s official district record.”

And the revised version strikes a section that reads: “A student has the right to dress in a manner consistent with the student’s gender identity, subject to any dress code adopted on a school site.”