School district forced to change policy after leaving student out of active shooter drill

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With a 4-3 vote, the school board in Stafford County, Virginia, adopted nondiscrimination and equal opportunity policies to protect LGBTQ students and faculty.

The public school system in Stafford, Virginia, received widespread national attention and criticism last October when a middle school student was left to wait in the gymnasium during an active shooter drill as her classmates waited in locker rooms. Because she is transgender, the staff did not know where to send her.

"If there was someone armed in my school, I would have been the first one gone," the student said at the time. "I felt like an afterthought. If the whole thing wasn't bad enough, the embarrassment caused me to have a panic attack in front of everyone."

But after a national outcry and pressure from the community, the county's school board voted early on Wednesday morning to adopt an updated non-discrimination policy to ensure that it never happens again.

The school board, with a 4-3 vote, updated its nondiscrimination policy to explicitly state that it will not discriminate on the basis of "race, color, national origin, political affiliation, religion, sex, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, marital status, mental or physical disability, genetic information, sexual orientation, gender identity, or any other characteristic prohibited by state and/or federal law." The previous policy had only included protections based on "race, sex, age, color, religion, national origin, political affiliation, or disability." By a similar vote, it also adopted an equal opportunity policy with similar language.

The vote came following a marathon meeting before a packed audience. Some 60 community members signed up to speak, and each was allotted up to three minutes to weigh in. Representatives from state and national anti-LGBTQ organizations spoke and attempted to whip up opposition, but a roughly equal number of pro-equality supporters testified as well — including Gavin Grimm, a former Gloucester, Virginia, student whose anti-discrimination lawsuit against his own community's school system is still working its way through the federal courts.

"The welcome of the people in the room supporting trans kids overwhelmed people who were not, to create a friendly atmosphere," said Robert Rigby Jr., a Virginia educator and activist who watched the proceedings. He said that the vote "sends a message, from the very top down, that Stafford's a welcoming place."

Published with permission of The American Independent.