April 7, 2008 - Nashville High School Students and Child Welfare Organizations Ask for Comprehensive Non-Discrimination Policy
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Christine Sun , ACLU of TN, 615-329-9934
NASHVILLE, TN – On Tuesday, April 8, 2008, the MNPS Support Student Safety coalition will be presenting a proposal for a comprehensive non-discrimination policy at the Metropolitan-Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) board meeting. The broad-based coalition hopes to secure a non-discrimination policy that will affirm MNPS’s commitment to providing equal educational opportunities for all students, including those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT). Similar policies are already in place in other school districts in Tennessee and the Southeast, including in Knox County, Memphis, Little Rock and Charlotte, North Carolina.
“We’ve worked hard to reach out to the community,” said Eric Austin, a Hume-Fogg junior and a member of the coalition. “We hope to show the School Board that this is a problem that affects all students and that the students of Nashville deserve the same protections as students in Knox County and Memphis.”
Formed in June 2007 with the assistance of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, the Coalition includes a number of Nashville’s most respected child welfare organizations, including the Oasis Center, Centerstone, Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee, One-in-Teen Youth Services, The Child and Family Policy Center at the Vanderbilt Institute for Public Policy Studies and the Mayor’s Youth Council. The Coalition says that adopting a more inclusive policy will make the district safer for all of its students.
Over the past school year, the student members of the Coalition have engaged in an extensive campaign to educate the Nashville community about the negative effects of bullying in schools. According to a recent nationwide survey by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), students who experience anti-gay bullying are more likely to report depression, to seriously consider suicide and to miss school because they felt unsafe.
“Bullying and harassment against gay and transgender students are problems for everyone, not just the students being picked on,” said Evie Farnsworth, a senior at Hume-Fogg High School and one of the founders of the Coalition. “Everyone should be able to go to a school where each student feels safe and is treated with respect.”
The MNPS Code of Conduct does not currently have a student non-discrimination or anti-bullying policy that includes specific categories. The policy proposed by the Coalition will state that, “It is the policy of the Metro Nashville Public Schools to afford all persons, regardless of their actual or perceived race, religion, color, disability, sexual orientation, national origin, ancestry, or gender, including gender identity, expression, and appearance, equal rights and opportunities in all of its educational institutions.”
More information about the Coalition can be found at: www.supportstudentsafety.com