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Carroll ISD adopts trio of policies tied to LGBTQ+ students

 Carroll ISD trustees voted unanimously Monday to put previously approved new policies into the student handbook
Bill Zeeble
KERA News, Carroll ISD screen shot
Carroll ISD trustees voted unanimously Monday to put previously approved new policies into the student handbook

The Carroll ISD Board of Trustees on Monday formally struck gender-based harassment from the district's nondiscrimination policy, reigniting controversy from December when the board first revised that section of the student handbook.

Trustees approved a final version of the 2023-24 student code of conduct that no longer specifically mentions gender or sexual identity under its statement of nondiscrimination, which now reads:

“Carroll ISD does not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, sex, age or disability.”

The board also struck “gender” and “sexual orientation” from its definition of student harassment, and removed the “gender-based harassment” section from district policy, which continues to state that “the District prohibits discrimination, including harassment, against any student.”

Speaker Colleen Golestan told trustees she worries the policy change will hurt LGBTQ+ students.

This is a public school  and all students should feel accepted,” she said. “You’ll always have a number of these students in your care . Your duty is to prepare them for bight futures as you say inspire excellence.

“If you adopt policies that make them ashamed or afraid how can they flourish?”

But trustees maintain district policy doesn’t allow harassment of any student for any reason. Trustee Eric Lannen said gender and sexual orientation are already protected under Title IX.

“It really bothers me honestly that we’ve had a few or our people who actually have spoken here tonight to feel that any member of this board does not protect and value every single student in our district,” he said.

In mid-December of last year, the newly conservative school board voted 5-1 to eliminate gender identity and sexual orientation from its nondiscrimination statement, as well as a mention of religion, though that was included in the final version approved this week.

Pamela Francis, a member of the committee that worked on Caroll’s updated student handbook, told KERA she dislikes the change.

"They have weakened the code of conduct,” said Francis, whose three children graduated from the district. "They've weakened our statement of nondiscrimination. They've specifically taken out every reference to gender, every reference to gender-based harassment."

Francis said if students feel discriminated against for these reasons and want help or advice, there's none to be found in the handbook.

Trustees said Title IX already prohibits sex discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation.

Separately, trustees voted 6-0 to approve a policy requiring students use bathrooms based on their sex at birth, with accommodations, and a policy stating staff "shall not require the use of pronouns that are inconsistent" with a student's biological sex. The language in those policies is nearly identical to ones adopted by Keller ISD and Grapevine-Colleyville ISD.

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Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues. Heâââ