Kalispell Schools Seek Public Comment on Gender Discrimination

School board to meet July 14 about adding inclusive protection language

By Clare Menzel

On July 14, the Kalispell School District 5 school board will meet to hear public feedback on a proposed addition to the district’s current discrimination policy after making changes to the proposal’s language.

The current Policy on Equal Education, Nondiscrimination, and Sex Equity does not explicitly include protections for gender non-conforming students, meaning students whose identified gender does not match the one they were assigned at birth.

Related protections are limited to sex-based discrimination, which does not include gender-based discrimination.

The addendum would protect students from discrimination based on “gender identity, sexual orientation, and gender expression.”

This would benefit lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) students as well as those who don’t identify with any of those terms but still experience discrimination related to the way they present their gender.

After the Montana School Board Association recommended expanding the existing policy earlier this year, a special subcommittee was formed to focus on the issue. The subcommittee is led by trustee Jack Fallon and includes members from the policy committee – the committee that usually evaluates general policy changes – and the personnel committee.

When the committee first presented the proposal to the public in April, it read “gender identity, sexual orientation, or failure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity.”

Since that meeting, the subcommittee has met multiple times to consider and incorporate the public’s feedback.

At a work session meeting on June 30, the subcommittee presented their update –the substitution of “gender expression” for “failure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity”– to the board.

After the meeting on July 14, the subcommittee will reconvene to make further edits. To give the community another chance to comment, a third reading is scheduled for August, after which the board will vote on the policy change.