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Durham school board passes LGBTQ protection policy

Bisexual, transgender and LGBTQ flags hang from flag poles. There is a bright blue sky with a few clouds in the background.
Chris Bentley
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Flickr / https://www.flickr.com/photos/cementley/34461754853/in/photostream/

The Durham Public School Board of Education has passed a policy designed to support LGBTQ students.

The measures include more training for teachers and staff about how to prevent harassment and bullying, and gender identity affirming practices like addressing students by their preferred pronouns.

Dozens of people spoke at the board's most recent meeting, including Dylan Evans, a student at the School for Creative Studies.

"Some people's only refuge is school and it's a poor excuse for a safe space," Evans said. "We aren't being respected and it sends the message that we don't matter. It's dehumanizing. We need training for teachers to educate them on how to accommodate queer and trans students."

The policy contains provisions like modifying the district's dress code to clarify that it can not be enforced based on gender stereotypes, and that students should be able to use their preferred names in graduation ceremonies.

"The materials and programs being discussed are not controversial. They're not going to change anyone's kid from this to that, from here to there. They're going to recognize and validate and celebrate what kids already are," said Nate Topham, the parent of two students in Durham Public Schools.

The policy also outlines how to support students who are transitioning.

A handful of people spoke against adopting it, including Courtney Geels, a Republican who ran unsuccessfully for congress in this year's midterm elections. Geels criticized the policy's outline of a "support team" for children who are transitioning as too vague.

"Who is the one who is deciding what the maturity of that child is?" she asked. "I do think you should add in there that a parent would have to be part of that support system if they are under the age of 18 as that is legally appropriate."

The school board's decision to adopt the policy was unanimous.

Will Michaels is WUNC's General Assignment Reporter and fill-in host for "Morning Edition"
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