The bullying or harassment of gay, lesbian and transgender students in the Oklahoma City School District will not be tolerated, school board members said Monday with a vote amending the district’s policy. "This is an opportunity for us to get a little bit ahead of the curve, not very far I’ll admit,” board member Phil Horning said. "You cannot live in central Oklahoma and not admit that there is a tendency to discriminate against gay and lesbian individuals. You’d have to have your head in the sand not to admit it … I’ll die before I vote no.” Horning and five other board members voted to add the protected classes to the district’s bullying and harassment policy, while board members Lyn Watson and Steve Shafer voted against the policy change. "What do we do with other groups that don’t fit into these classifications? Are we going to create a database and continue to expand this policy?” Watson asked, pointing out that in the parent handbook for schools the policy reads the enumerated classes and then adds "or for any other reason.” "I just think that our policy needs to be visionary and inclusive of everybody,” Watson said. Tammy Carter, general counsel for the Oklahoma City School District, said the change in policy was necessitated by the federal Matthew Shepard Act, a law passed in October that added both sexual orientation and gender identity to a list of protected classes under the hate-crime law. "Courts have begun to hold school districts that fail to protect students from discrimination ... liable for violating constitutional rights,” Carter said. The board waived its rules Monday to hear the proposed change to the harassment and bullying policy without the required 30 days of advertisement. Watson and Shafer voted against waiving the rules. Horning said the rules were waived because it was a sensitive issue with "nothing to profit us by extending the debate on the policy beyond tonight.”
In OTHER AcTIOn ...The school board also:
• Approved a new policy that standardized the fees associated with nonschool-related organizations using school facilities such as gyms, auditoriums and stadiums.
• Approved an agreement with the city of Oklahoma City to have the city administer the 2007 bond.