AMPHI SAYS NO TO GAY DISCRIMINATION - The Explorer: Import

AMPHI SAYS NO TO GAY DISCRIMINATION

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Posted: Tuesday, April 16, 2002 11:00 pm | Updated: 7:46 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

The Amphitheater Governing Board at its April 9 meeting voted unanimously to amend a part of the teacher code of ethics that governs nondiscrimination against students, adding sexual orientation.

The governing board was originally amending the policy to make it more specific, adding a statement at the beginning that "it is the duty of the district's employees to maintain professional ethics at all times."

But boardmember Kent Barrabee said he noticed something he thought was important that was missing from the language.

Within the teacher code of ethics, under the section dealing with the treatment of students as to race, color, creed, religious affiliation, political affiliation, ethnicity, sex, nationality, cultural, economic, family and social background, marital status and disabilities were included in a list of things teachers could not use to treat students differently, either in a positive or negative way.

Barrabee said he felt sexual orientation was an important trait to add because there is a growing trend of tolerance for different sexual orientation, especially in young people.

"I just thought it was the right thing to do," Barrabee said. "It just seems right because of my values."

Boardmember Nancy Young Wright agreed, and asked that any other policy dealing with similar content be looked at by the board in future meetings.

Superintendent Vicki Balentine said she had already been considering changing that aspect of the policy before the meeting took place.

Balentine and Amphi Education Association President John Lewandowski said policies for gay students is a growing trend among school districts. The two had already discussed changing the policy. The superintendent normally discusses with the union changes in policy affecting district staff.

Barrabee said he did not know why it took until now to change the 27-year-old policy, but "whatever the reason, I'm glad the times are changing."

There was some concern during discussion about the change that it would be going against state statute. Currently, Arizona law does not allow for teachers, in their curriculum, to promote homosexuality as a "positive alternative lifestyle." A Senate bill that would have allowed for teachers to discuss homosexual lifestyles, but it died in committee in February.

Todd Jaeger, Amphi's legal counsel, said changing the policy would not go against the current statute.

Despite the death of the bill, Barrabee said he is glad to see school districts are taking some steps to promoting tolerance, especially in young people.

"I just think it's best for the state to eliminate the implication that someone's lifestyle is inferior," he said.

"It's a statement of respectfulness to an orientation that seems to be part of their human condition."

Katie Kelley, a science teacher at Canyon del Oro High School and one of the advisers for the school's Gay/Straight Alliance club, said she thinks the change in policy is a good start, but will probably take awhile to have any effect.

The Gay/Straight Alliance brings together both gay and straight students to plan activities and help promote tolerance on campus.

But some of the club's members said they have had problems with some of the school's staff treating them differently, which they said they suspect is because of the controversial nature of the club.

Kelley said she is hopeful that some change might eventually happen.

"Well, they're finally getting into the 1900s," she said. "Maybe given some time, (the change in policy) will trickle down."

However, Board Vice President Mary Schuh seemed visibly irritated by Barrabee's proposal during the meeting.

Schuh said she felt the change would be redundant because state and federal statutes already make it clear that no one, no matter what their age, can be treated differently because of their sexual orientation.

"It's already against the law," she said. "But if it makes Mr. Barrabee happy, well, then, we'll do it."

Schuh also said the change would cause redundancy in the policy itself, because it already states that a student's sex cannot be a reason to treat him or her differently.

Schuh argued that, in this case, the word "sex" could imply not only gender, but the actual act itself and the choice a student could make when deciding who they would potentially want to perform the act with.

"I just didn't see any reason to change it," she said.

Schuh said she was "indifferent" to being for or against trends in supporting tolerance for a student's choice in sexual orientation.

"I'm fed up to my eyeballs in political correctness," she said. "I think we spend more time worrying about those kind of things while we have kids who have to take remedial classes at Pima (Community College) because they didn't get a good enough education. What we need to be worrying about is getting these kids educated."

In other board action, the board voted to amend the district's call to the audience policy, allowing speakers more freedom for when they can address the board.

Speakers can also address the board on agenda items during open call to the audience, whereas before they could only speak on an agenda item right before its was going to be presented.

Young Wright said the amendment would allow for people who had to leave early to address the board with their concerns about a particular item if it was not scheduled to be discussed until later in the evening.

During the open call to the audience at the April 9 meeting, several concerned teachers and parents from Copper Creek Elementary School voiced their disappointment to the board for denying them a pilot extended-day kindergarten program.

Copper Creek was originally slated to have a pilot program along with Donaldson Elementary, but after several teachers and parents from Harelson Elementary asked the board to consider Harelson for the program, the board conceded and selected Harelson and Donaldson to be the pilot schools.

Balentine said the district only decided to have two schools for the program, which would allow students to stay in kindergarten for a full school day, because it would be easier to work out any problems with only two schools participating even though four schools had the space to offer the program.

Students in the program would be taught basic curricular activities in the morning and then take part in activities during the rest of the day that would expand on what they learned. The cost to parents will be about $10 per day.

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