Danedri Thompson
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Rev. Erika Marksbury, Gardner, asked school board members to adopt a policy to protect lesbian and gay staff in the school district.
She told the board during the public comment portion of a May 11 meeting that the state policy, which prohibits discrimination for race, color, gender, religion, national origin, ancestry, or age, excludes protections for sexual orientation.
Brownback erased sexual orientation discrimination provisions because they were added by executive order. Brownback said those changes should come through the legislature.
Marksbury said the district, however, can adopt its own policy.
“You crafted your own statement and you have the ability to amend it,” she told board members. She noted that school districts in Lawrence and Topeka have adopted policies that protect gay and lesbian staff members.
Marksbury said she doesn’t anticipate that sexual orientation discrimination would become a problem in the district.
“My grandfather Jack Marksbury taught here,” she said. “We have the highest respect for this district, and we know how well it treats its students and staff.”
However, she said codifying special class protection to  lesbian, gay and transgendered staff would allow everyone to feel welcome at USD 231, including lesbian, gay and transgendered students.
She suggested with a student population of approximately 5,500 students, there may be as many as 550 lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered students in the district. Those students need mentors, Marksbury said.
She noted that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered teens are likely to be bullied, and that one in four will attempt suicide.
“The pressures on these teens are enormous,” she said.
Crafting a policy that protects those from discrimination based on sexual orientation is one step the district could take to let students and staff know that they are welcome in the district, she said.
Board members did not take action on the request.