This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
The Salt Lake City School District should not hesitate to become the first Utah school district to ban discrimination against gay and lesbian students and employees. It is rightly poised to add those two groups to its list of protected minorities, and we commend the school board for leaning toward approving the amendment in its diversity policy.
But we're disappointed it hasn't so far included transgender individuals.
The board has yet to act on the proposed amendment, so there is still time to correct that omission.
While gay and lesbian students and school employees should be protected from harassment, transgender individuals are just as likely, and in many cases more likely, to become targets of prejudice. They are more easily identified and just as sensitive to mistreatment as gay and lesbian students and employees.
The reasons board members voiced for leaving transgender individuals unprotected sound more like excuses. Heather Bennett said gender identity was at first included but later dropped when a school district attorney said sexual orientation is more commonly covered by anti-discrimination policies. Why is that important? And two other board members said they didn't like expanding the "protected class" even further. Why not?
Board member Alama Uluave said, "I thought the other classifications were sufficient for the protection of everyone." Not quite.
Fortunately, there appears to be a four-vote majority favoring the amendment.
Nationally, an alarming 85 percent of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students in middle schools and high schools have been harassed while at school, according to a survey done by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network.
Some board members admitted that sexual orientation and gender identity are the basis for the most serious bullying and intimidation in Salt Lake City schools. That is unacceptable and the board must stop it.
It seems indefensible that no action has been taken before in this district that consistently claims to embrace its diversity. And apparently other school districts need to see a peer take the lead in abolishing this abhorrent behavior.
Suicide among LGBT students in Utah is increasing, according to advocacy groups. Most of the evidence is anecdotal, but even one suicide brought on by humiliation or harassment of a gay teenager is one too many.