Sexual orientation protection passes in Orange County schools

Tensions run high at controversial plan's meeting

Published On: Dec 11 2012 11:37:02 PM EST   Updated On: Dec 12 2012 12:33:13 PM EST
ORLANDO, Fla. -

Early Wednesday morning Orange County Public Schools passed a measure that prevents discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

Tensions ran high in Orange County when hundreds of parents and students turned out over the controversial plan.  On one side of the argument students and teachers who want to be protected against discrimination. On the other side, parents who fear for their own children and worry that's not the type of conversation they want to have with their kids. Those parents are still in there arguing their sides.

Some parents said school is no place for their kids to come face-to-face with transgender or gay students and staff.

"If a child chooses to identify with another gender, what does that mean to my student? And as a mom of my daughters, no one else is responsible for teaching them social policy, that's my job," said Vicki Mullens.

Mullens came with a threat, she may keep her kid out of Orange County Schools. But advocates said the new policy simply mirrors federal law and ends discrimination.

"No one should be discriminated against. No one should have to worry about whether or not they're going to have a job just because of who they are," said Michael Farmer, gay rights advocate.

Other parents said the policy needs clarification. Some worried about who can use bathrooms, but district leaders assured the crowd that transgendered students and staff currently in the schools have not had any problems with bathroom use.

"We've never had issues with bathrooms. This is a red herring presented by the opposition to this policy who want to discriminate against people," said Farmer.

"They want to say that we are fearful, and that's actually accurate because we're afraid of the unknown," said Mullens.

Some parents complained that they didn't get enough notice about this meeting, but school board members said this has been widely publicized.

School board members passed the measure 6-2. To view the revised Board Policy JB click here.  To view the revised Board Policy GBA click here.