LGBTQ Advocacy in Oklahoma Classrooms – Part I

On any given day during the legislative session, Oklahoma can be seen running a tight race with North Carolina and Tennessee for the title of “state with the most homophobic and discriminatory legislation.” Every year in Oklahoma, a host of anti-LGBTQ bills are introduced in both houses. Fortunately, over the last several years, virtually all of them have been voluntarily withdrawn or voted down before becoming law. It seems that the anti-gay legacy of former representative Sally Kern, though not dying away completely, is not thriving either.

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On May 13, 2016, when the Obama administration released a “Dear Colleague Letter” that directed public schools to make necessary changes to protect the civil rights of transgender students, school districts across the country, including in Oklahoma, took notice. A few Oklahoma districts already had protections in place for LGBTQ students (Tulsa expanded protection in 2015). Others responded to the directive by changing their nondiscrimination policies to include LGBTQ students. Still others (including the State Department of Education) doubled down on their non-inclusive policies claiming “federal overreach” and “local control.”

Unfortunately, Donald Trump rescinded the directive on February 22, 2017. What is encouraging, however, is that there seems to be no evidence that any of the Oklahoma districts that changed their policies in response to the directive have since reversed that decision. In other words, LGBTQ students who previously were not protected before the directive, now continue to be protected under district nondiscrimination policies.

Of course, a district’s nondiscrimination policy does not guarantee a safe school environment for LGBTQ students. What ultimately protects all students is a school culture of tolerance. But policy can be an essential element in early efforts to develop a school culture based on mutual respect and acceptance. With that in mind, I have compiled a list of nondiscrimination policies from the twenty-five largest school districts in Oklahoma according to www.niche.com. I have also included the nondiscrimination policies of nine smaller districts which include references to “sexual orientation” and/or “gender identity/expression.” And finally, as a point of reference, I have included the rather lacking nondiscrimination policy of the Oklahoma State Department of Education.

A few observations are worthy of mention. There are 520 schools districts in Oklahoma. My rudimentary research only includes the top 100 (and Okemah). Of those I researched, fifteen include both “sexual orientation” and “gender identity/expression.” Seven districts include “sexual orientation” but not “gender identity/expression.” That is a total of twenty-two districts that provide policy protection to gay students. That is to say, there are no districts that include “gender identity/expression” without including “sexual orientation.” Twelve of the top twenty-five do not include any protections for LGBTQ students.

(1) The Oklahoma City Public School District (OKCPS) does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, age, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, alienage, veteran, parental, family and marital status in its programs and activities, or in its employment decisions, and provides equal access to the Boy Scouts of America and other designated youth groups.

(2) Tulsa Public Schools does not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender expression, gender identity, disability, genetic information, veteran status, marital status or age in its employment, programs and activities and provides equal access to the Boy Scouts and other designated youth groups.

(3) The Edmond Public Schools does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or age in its programs and activities and provides equal access to the Boy Scouts and other designated youth groups.

(4) The Moore Public School District does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or age in its programs and activities and provides equal access to the Boy Scouts and other designated youth groups.

(5) Putnam City Schools does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, national origin, age, marital or veteran status, or disability in admission to its programs, services or activities, in access to them, in treatment of individuals, or in any aspect of their operations.

(6) (Broken Arrow) There will be no discrimination in the District because of race, color, sex, pregnancy, gender, gender expression or identity, national origin, religion, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, age, or genetic information in its programs, services, activities and employment. The district also provides equal access to the Boy Scouts of America and other designated youth groups.

(7) Discrimination and/or harassment of students are prohibited by Norman Public Schools. It is the intent of the District to be nondiscriminatory to all students regardless of race, color, sex, national origin, religion, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, age, or genetic information. The district also provides equal access to Boy Scouts of America and other designated youth groups.

(8) It is the policy of the Union Public School District to provide equal opportunities without regard to race, age, color, religion, national origin, pregnancy, gender, gender expression or identity, sex, sexual orientation, qualified disability, genetic information, or veteran status in its educational programs and activities, in access to them, or in any aspect of their operations.

(9) It is the policy of the Lawton Independent School District to provide equal opportunities without regard to race, color, national origin, sex, age, qualified disability, or military veteran status in its educational programs and its employment practices.

(10) The Mid-Del Public School District No. I-52 does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, pregnancy, gender, gender expression or identity, religion, veteran status, sexual orientation, disability, age, or genetic information in its programs and activities and provides equal access to the Boy Scouts and other designated youth groups.

(11) Jenks Public Schools prohibits discrimination in its educational programs and activities, admission programs of students, recruitment, selection and/or employment on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, veteran status or disability.

(12) Mustang Public Schools is committed to conducting its personnel practices in a manner that ensures nondiscrimination in employment and equal opportunity without regard to race, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, physical handicap, medical condition, marital status, age, and gender.

(13) (Owasso) The district prohibits discrimination, harassment or retaliation based on real or perceived race, color, sex, pregnancy, gender, gender identity or expression, national origin, religion, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, age, or genetic information.

(14) Discrimination and/or harassment of students are prohibited by Yukon Public Schools.  It is the intent of the District to be nondiscriminatory to all students regardless of race, color, creed, national origin, disability, gender, sexual orientation, age, or religion.

(15) It is the policy of Enid Public Schools to provide equal opportunities without regard to race, color, national origin, gender, age, religion, veteran status or disability in its educational programs, services and activities and in employment.

(16) (Muskogee) There will be no discrimination in the district because of race, color, sex, national origin, religion, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, age, or genetic information in its programs, services, activities and employment.

(17) The Bartlesville Board of Education is committed to a policy of nondiscrimination in relation to age, sex, race, religion, national origin, disability, veteran status, or for any other reason not related to individual capability.

(18) The Stillwater Board of Education is committed to a policy of nondiscrimination. There will be no discrimination in this district on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, sex, pregnancy, gender, gender expression or identity, disability, genetic information, veteran status, sexual orientation or age in its employment, programs and activities.

(19) Bixby Public Schools, as an equal opportunity educational provider and employer, does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, and/or age in educational programs or activities that it operates or in employment decisions.

(20) The Choctaw/Nicoma Park Public Schools does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or age in its programs and activities and provides equal access to the Boy Scouts, and other designated youth groups.

(21) The Sand Springs Board of Education is committed to a policy of nondiscrimination in relation to race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, alienage, handicap, or veteran status.

(22) It is the policy of the Board of Education that no person in Ponca City School District No. 71 shall, on the grounds of race, color, sex, pregnancy, gender, gender expression or identity, national origin, religion, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, age, or genetic information, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefit of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity in violation of any federal or state statue prohibiting such discrimination.

(23) Deer Creek Schools does not discriminate on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, age, religion, marital status, disability or veteran status in admission to its programs, services or activities, in access to them, in treatment of individuals, or any aspect of their operations and provides equal access to the Boy Scouts and other designated groups in accordance with all State and Federal Laws.

(24) (Shawnee) The District prohibits discrimination, harassment or retaliation based on real or perceived race, color, sex, pregnancy, gender, gender identity or expression, national origin, religion, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, age, or genetic information.

(25) The Board of Education of the Claremore School District adopts the following policy and procedures dealing with student conduct and behavior: The following behaviors/acts at school are not acceptable… Intimidation or harassment because of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, gender or sexual orientation,

(30) (Durant) There will be no discrimination in the district because of race, color, sex, pregnancy, gender, gender expression or identity, national origin, religion, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, age, or genetic information in its programs, services, activities and employment.

(33) (Coweta) It is the policy of the district to provide equal opportunities without regard to race, color, sex, national origin, religion, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, age, or genetic information in its education programs, activities, and employment.

(41) (Collinsville) The district prohibits discrimination, harassment or retaliation based on real or perceived race, color, sex, pregnancy, gender, gender identity or expression, national origin, religion, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, age, or genetic information.

(43) (Grove) There will be no discrimination in the district because of race, color, sex, pregnancy, gender, gender expression or identity, national origin, religion, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, age, or genetic information in its programs, services, activities and employment.

(45) Glenpool Public Schools does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, pregnancy, gender, gender expression or identity, religion, veteran status, sexual orientation, genetic information, disability or age in its programs and activities and provides equal access to Boy Scouts and other designated youth groups.

(63) There will be no discrimination in the Hilldale Public Schools because of race, color, sex, national origin, religion, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, age, or genetic information in its programs, services, activities and employment.

(74) Bristow Public Schools does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, gender, gender expression or identity, pregnancy, national origin, religion, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, age, or genetic information.

(76) (Cleveland) There will be no discrimination in the district because of race, color, sex, pregnancy, gender, gender expression or identity, national origin, religion, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, age, or genetic information in its programs, services, activities and employment.

(100+) (Okemah) There will be no discrimination in the district because of race, color, sex, pregnancy, gender, gender expression or identity, national origin, religion, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, age, or genetic information in its programs, services, activities and employment.

It is the policy of the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) not to discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, national origin, age, or disability in its programs or employment practices.

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If you know of other Oklahoma districts that have policy protections for LGBTQ students, please post them in the comments. Also, please comment any corrections or omissions. No doubt, so many of the inclusive district policies have personal stories behind them. That is the beauty of advocacy work, nothing changes the hearts and minds of people like personal relationships. As LGBTQ students further find their voice in our public schools, teachers and administrators need to be ready to support them, build relationships with them, and embrace the change.

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2 thoughts on “LGBTQ Advocacy in Oklahoma Classrooms – Part I”

  1. I found your blog after you were referenced in an article in the Gazette’s Pride issue earlier this year. At the time I was dating another teacher who came from a district with a nondiscrimination that covered LGBTQ students. He pointed out to me that my district, Deer Creek, did not have such a policy. When our school year started in August, I asked our HR director why our policy did not include sexual orientation. She agreed with me that our district needed a change. She had our lawyer rewrite it, and now Deer Creek’s nondiscrimination policy covers a much wider range of students including sexual orientation and gender identity. The school board voted 5-0 in September to approve the new language.

    NEW POLICY: The Deer Creek School District does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, sex, national or ethnic origin, alienage, ancestry, religion or religious creed, gender identity, gender expression, pregnancy, age, disability or handicap, marital or parental status, sexual orientation, military or veteran status, genetic information, or any other characteristic protected under applicable federal, state or local law in admission to its programs, services or activities, in access to them, in treatment of individuals, or any aspect of their operations and provides equal access to the Boy Scouts and other designated groups in accordance with all state and federal laws.

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