Dallas Community College District trustees voted this week to add gender identity and expression to existing nondiscrimination policies.
During their monthly meeting on Tuesday trustees voted to amend three policies, one that covers employees and two others that protect students, adding wording into the college’s nondiscrimination policy and the student code of conduct.
After five speakers addressed the board and another five were scheduled to speak, board Chair Jerry Prater told the crowd that attended to support the policy, “We have gotten your message loud and clear.”
The protections passed by a vote of four to one. Trustee Bill Metzger was the only one to vote against the changes. Two trustees were absent, but would have probably voted for passage, according to staff who had worked on the measures.
When the board was briefed on the policy in October, some members said they thought amending the nondiscrimination statement was unnecessary because it was covered by sexual orientation, and because the city of Dallas prohibits discrimination. Although only two of the system’s colleges are located within the city of Dallas, the school’s attorney argued that the entire system was covered by the ordinance because the district’s headquarters is located in Dallas.
Confusion about the definition of sexual orientation stemmed from the wording in the 2002 Dallas ordinance. The city regulation only lists sexual orientation but the definition of the term within the ordinance includes gender identity.
But the city ordinance specifically exempts other governmental bodies. DCCCD is its own taxing authority and is, therefore, exempt from city regulations.
This change makes DCCCD the third community college in the state to add trans protections. The others include San Jacinto College and Houston Community College.
LGBT rights and ensuring LGBT students know they will be protected from discrimination and accepted regardless of their orientation or gender identity has become a prominent talking point for several education establishments over the past few years.
For instance, Harvard University has said that in order to better understand its students and match them with applicable resources it may start asking applicants if they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
Chicago’s Elmhurst College, a liberal arts facility, is believed to be the first college to ask applicants the optional question regarding LGBT identity.