The Fairfax County School Board approved a new nondiscrimination policy Thursday that includes for the first time protections for sexual orientation.
The measure, approved 11 to 1, means that Fairfax officially joins the majority of school districts in the Washington region that have policies to protect the rights of gay students and staff.
“It’s long overdue for FCPS to be taking the position that we will not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation,” school board member Sandy Evans (Mason) said.
The approval Thursday brings to fruition an effort a decade in the making. In 2002, the school board attempted to amend its nondiscrimination policy to include sexual orientation and failed. Responding to a school board request, then-Virginia Attorney General Jerry Kilgore (R) wrote in an opinion that the Fairfax administration did not have the legal authority under the Dillon rule to amend its policies concerning sexual orientation. The Dillon rule limits local government bodies from creating policies where a state statute does not exist.
Approving the policy revision Thursday, the administration cited the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that reversed a Virginia ban on same-sex marriage.
According to a schools document, “As a result, Virginia employers must provide benefits to same-sex couples.”
Both Arlington and Alexandria City public schools have had policies protecting sexual orientation for several years. Loudoun County schools spokesman Wayde Byard said that “LCPS does not have a specific policy that specifically addresses sexual orientation, but we follow all applicable state and federal laws, rules and regulations.”
The D.C. public school system already had a policy protecting sexual orientation for students and staff. In 1996, the Montgomery County school district approved a policy stating that “it regards all acts of hate . . . to be unacceptable and intolerable and in particular those based on race, color, national origin, religion, gender, age, marital status, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, physical characteristics, or disability.”
The Fairfax County School Board had earlier approved policies to protect students from bullying on the basis of sexual orientation. In 2012, school board member Ted Velkoff (At Large) proposed an amendment to the administration’s legislative program to include that the district supports nondiscrimination hiring policies on the basis of sexual orientation.
School board member Elizabeth Schultz (Springfield) voted against the measure Thursday, saying that the nondiscrimination policy was overly broad and created a surplus of “protected classes.”