Orlando area school board approves LBGT protections

School board approves protections for LGBT students, teachers

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At a marathon meeting filled with emotion, the Orange County School Board approved changing its non-discrimination policy early Wednesday to protect gay and transgender students and teachers.

Both angry parents who oppose the change and supporters of the policy revision packed the board meeting. About 70 people signed up to speak for or against the policy change.

Some parents asked the school board to explain how the proposal to protect transgender teachers and students does not discriminate against young, impressionable children.

The school board spent more than four hours listening to public input. 

"If I had to summarize this policy, I'd say it's entirely inappropriate," said John Stemberger of the Florida Family Policy Council. 

He said young children should not be exposed to transgender teachers at school and that parents should explain the topic at home.

"The school board was elected to do what's in the best interest of the children, and instead, they've chosen to do social experimentation with a special interest group that's completely inappropriate," Stemberger said.

Florida State Rep. Joe Saunders, D-Orlando, is a gay rights advocate who says the policy is about equality and protection. 

"It's about sending a really clear signal that no teacher is ever going to be denied a job because of who they are," Saunders said. "More importantly, students will always know that they can come to school, they can feel safe and they can be authentic."

The school board spent the last few months trying to decide whether the words "gender identity and expression" should be added to its anti discrimination policy.

Orange County school officials say the policy the district debated is already in effect in Miami Dade, Broward, Sarasota and Hillsborough counties and in Orange County government.

"It's not a new idea. It's not a new policy," Saunders said.

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