Austin ISD to add 'gender identity' to anti-discrimination policies

Austin ISD's board of trustees approved amendments Oct. 27 to add "gender identity" to the district's anti-discrimination policies for students and staff.

Austin ISD's LGBTQ Advisory Committee recommended amending the policies prohibiting discrimination, harassment, and retaliation against students and staff based on "race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, disability, or other basis prohibited by law," to add the phrase "gender identity" to that list.

During citizens communication, board members heard support for the decision from a student as well as representatives from local nonprofit Out Youth, which provides services to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth in Austin and Central Texas.

Transgender youth have reported harassment, discrimination and physical attacks, said Keisha Martinez, Out Youth's clinical services director.

"Creating a gender-inclusive space is accomplished by using appropriate gender pronouns and providing access to services in accordance with individuals' authentic identity versus their designated gender at birth. Policy changes are imperative," she said, adding she thinks the district should also educate students and staff about gender identity as well as gender expression.

The board's policy committee agreed with adding the proposed amended language and recommended the board vote on it. The board unanimously approved the amendments as part of its Oct. 27 consent agenda.

Trustee Gina Hinojosa said she would like staff to provide the board with more information on what kind of education AISD is providing to students and staff about gender expression, sensitivity and understanding. AISD is a "No Place for Hate" district, an initiative that aims to increase harmony and appreciation of diversity, according to the district.