CPS adds gender identity to nondiscrimination policy

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COLUMBIA - The Columbia Board of Education unanimously voted Monday to add "gender identity, gender expression" to its nondiscrimination policy for students and employees.

According to Columbia Public Schools, the policy before the meeting was:

"The Columbia Public School District does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, ancestry, disability, age, or use of leave protected by the Family and Medical Leave Act, in the recruitment, selection, treatment, and promotion of employees; in the admission and participation of students in the district's educational programs or activities; in vocational opportunities; or in the treatment, counseling, and placement of students. In addition, the district provides equal access to the Boy Scouts and other designated youth groups."

The city's nondiscrimination policy includes gender identity, but the state's does not.

Christine King, a Columbia Board of Education member, said she is not surprised the vote passed unanimously. She is more perplexed by comments made during debate.

"I think I was probably a little bit more surprised some of the comments, but not about the vote," King said. "This really is our current, modern day civil right movement."

Although King said this historic decision will leave an impact on the school district, she said future conversations are inevitable.

"These are some lengthy discussions and conversations," King said. "I think long term, we will have to have more discussions when it comes to locker rooms, as it relates to sports activities and those types of things."

PROMO is a Missouri organization promoting equal treatment for the lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual community, and released a statement after the vote.

"It is great to see Columbia Public Schools moving in this direction. As we have seen around our state, and the nation, updates to include the transgender community are necessary in order to meet the growing knowledge and awareness of the community," said A.J. Bockelman, executive director of PROMO.

Some community members spoke up at the board meeting in oppostion to the policy change, saying there should be private changing areas and a bathroom for transgender students.