Nashville High School Students Celebrate Comprehensive Non-Discrimination Policy

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School Board Approves Sexual Orientation And Gender Identity Protections For Students And Staff

NASHVILLE, TN – Students are celebrating today after last night’s decision by the Nashville school board to protect students and school employees from gender identity and sexual orientation discrimination. The American Civil Liberties Union also applauds the decision, hailing the hard work and advocacy by students that led to the change.

“We’re all really excited that all our hard work has paid off and that the school board agrees that anti-gay harassment and discrimination in our schools is totally unacceptable,” said Eric Austin, a Hume-Fogg High School junior and a member of the coalition. “We worked very hard to show the board the true stories of students here in the district who have struggled to keep learning in the face of name-calling and bullying, and we’re so glad that the board took our concerns seriously.”

The Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) Board of Education unanimously approved the changes to the code of student conduct as well as the employee nondiscrimination policy at its meeting last night after months of work by area students and child welfare organizations. The MNPS Support Student Safety coalition, which first approached the board asking for broader protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students in April, was spearheaded by students but also includes a number of Nashville’s most respected child welfare organizations, including the Oasis Center; Centerstone; Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee; One-in-Teen Youth Services; Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays; The Child and Family Policy Center at the Vanderbilt Institute for Public Policy Studies; and the Mayor’s Youth Council. The coalition was formed in June 2007 with assistance from the ACLU of Tennessee, which also provided advice and guidance throughout the project.

“These students stood up for their rights and put in an enormous amount of time and energy towards making their schools a safer place to learn,” said Christine Sun, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU of Tennessee. “This is a perfect example of citizens empowering themselves to go out and make changes for the better in their community, which is something we at the ACLU fully support. That this all came from the efforts of a group of dedicated, hardworking young people is simply wonderful.”

The student members of the coalition worked for over a year on an extensive campaign to educate the Nashville community about the negative effects of bullying in schools. According to a recent nationwide survey by the Gay Straight Lesbian Education Network (GLSEN), students who experience anti-gay bullying are more likely to carry a weapon to school, to seriously consider suicide and miss at least one day at school within a 30-day period.

More information about the coalition can be found at: www.supportstudentsafety.com.

For more information about how to work towards a similar policy at your own school, please visit the ACLU’s “Get Busy, Get Equal!” website at http://www.aclu.org/getequal.