How Inclusive to Make Discrimination Policy

Changes to school discipline policy was one of the major items of discussion at last evening’s District 56 School Board meeting, held in Clinton High School. Referring to the block of policies known as the “J” policies, Assistant Superintendent Dr. David Pitts said, “These policies are what make our schools work.”

School Board attorney Vernie Williams of the Halligan Mahoney and Williams law firm was on hand for the discussion. He explained that the board had been provided with an outline of what he described as “the huge block of J policies” with any changes to existing District 56 policy noted.  When asked, he explained that the reason for the changes was to conform to existing South Carolina law.  Mr. Williams suggested the board pass the entire block of J policies on first reading and then raise any concerns they might have, allowing for amendments to be made prior to the second reading.

Along those lines, Dr. Patsy Sadler asked about the policies related to discrimination.  She noted that the policy banned discrimination based upon race, religion and several other things but there was no mention of sexual orientation.  Mr. Williams explained that the law does not require that, but it could be included.

After discussion, the board was presented with a motion to pass all J policies on first reading as suggested by Mr. Williams.  Dr. Sadler again raised the issue of sexual orientation and offered an amendment to the motion which would also ban discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Prior to the vote on the entire block of policies, the board voted to include the amended language that would mention sexual orientation along with race, religion and the other legally required items to be protected by the policy.

The vote was not unanimous.  The amended motion passed on a vote of 4 to 3 with board members Keith Richardson and Tammy Stewart along with board chairman Jim Barton opposing the addition of the language including sexual orientation in the list of banned discriminations.

Now with the original motion successfully amended, the board voted 6 to 1 to approve the J policies on first reading.