School Board Addresses Concerns about its Sexual Harassment Policy

By: Estephany Escobar Email
By: Estephany Escobar Email
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HARRISONBURG -- The Rockingham County School Board held a news conference about its sexual harassment policy on Friday. This is after candidate for school board Dave Briggman claimed it does not go far enough to protect heterosexual students.

He said he does not want any child to be bullied. However, he questions the lack of specifics from the policy itself and opened a debate on whether it protects kids or is a form of bigotry.

In Briggman's most recent radio ad, a young girl states to the listener: "Did you know that our school board passed a policy last year that allows boys to use the girls' restroom and girls to use the boys' restroom. Do you that the policy allows boys to change in the girls locker room?"

Briggman said the current policy is not clear on what transgender students can and can not do.

"Then if you don't let the person who thinks he is a girl use the girl's bathroom or the locker room or the shower, then you are discriminating against them," said Briggman.

In a news conference, School Board Chair Dan Breeden said the policy aims to keep every student safe. It states that homophobic language and degrading statements are forms of sexual harassment.

"Parents and grandparents trust us with the safety and well being of their children and we take that pretty seriously, really seriously, and our effort here today is to reassure them that these claims are just not based in fact," said Breeden.

Breeden said the purpose of the policy is to prevent bullying - that some students have gone through in other parts of the country.

"Young kids who felt they were being harassed or bullied because they were somehow perceived to be different to the point of suicide. We certainly don't want that in Rockingham County, said Breeden.

Briggman said the policy is also illegal. He said that the attorney general wrote an opinion in 2002 stating that the Fairfax County school board did not have the authority to include sexual orientation in its nondiscrimination policy.

Breeden challenges Briggman's opinion. He said the policy is legal and consistent with the rulings of the department of justice. He also said the School Board Association has a similar policy.

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