Back Into the Closet: Why Texas Needs Nondiscrimination Laws for LGBTQIA Teachers

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Andrew Perretta holds a pride flag imitating the Texas flag at a rally at Crockett Park to protest a ruling made in the case of Kenne McFadden.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

Andrew Perretta holds a pride flag imitating the Texas flag at a rally at Crockett Park.

In August 2017, an art educator at Mansfield Independent School District found herself on administrative leave for showing students a picture of her wife during a “Get to Know Your Teacher” presentation.

After parents accused the teacher of pushing a homosexual agenda, school officials placed Stacy Bailey on leave and later asked her to resign, which she refused to do. A year later, the district reinstated Bailey, but placed her at a different school and grade level. In May 2018, Bailey filed a federal lawsuit alleging discrimination.

Bailey’s situation isn’t unique; every day, LGBTQIA teachers experience similar scenarios in schools across the United States.  

Currently, no U.S. federal law prohibits employment discrimination against LGBTQIA individuals like Bailey. According to LGBTQIA advocacy group Movement Advancement Project, 26 states lack inclusive nondiscrimination laws based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Twenty-one states and Washington, D.C., have state laws that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Two states have nondiscrimination policies that protect based on sexual orientation, but not gender identity expression. Therefore, many LGBTQIA individuals live in fear of facing discrimination or even being fired.

Texas is among the states that do not have an inclusive nondiscrimination law that protects sexual orientation and gender identity expression. A study by the Movement Advancement Project tallied points for the number of laws and policies within a state that would help LGBTQIA people receive equal treatment. Texas received zero points for employment nondiscrimination laws in the categories of sexual orientation and gender identity. This means that out of the 740,448 LGBTQIA individuals currently residing in Texas, none are protected by state nondiscrimination law and must rely on local city nondiscrimination laws – provided they exist

Fortunately for LGBTQIA Texans, a few state legislators are pushing for employment protection for that group’s members. State Rep. Eric Johnson (D-Dallas) has filed a bill during every legislative session since 2011 seeking to secure inclusive nondiscrimination laws for LGBTQIA individuals. But his bills have never made it to a full vote, facing religious objections from fellow legislators and their constituents. Among them is State Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R-Bedford), who in discussing Johnson’s bill in 2017 said he believes sexual orientation is a choice and, therefore, does not require protection under the law.

Such objections have not stopped Texas legislators from advocating for LGBTQIA individuals. House Bill 254, co-sponsored by State Reps. Diego Bernal (D-San Antonio) and Julie Johnson (D-Carrollton), would prohibit employers from discriminating against LGBTQIA individuals based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression and make it a criminal offense to violate the law. The bill was filed in late 2018 and is currently making its way through the House Committee on State Affairs. 

In 2019, we should not have to debate laws that prohibit discrimination of any individual; they should be a given. It is time for our state legislators and school officials to treat our LGBTQIA teachers like the heterosexual individuals in their halls, not like second-class citizens. The following are recommendations being made to ensure LGBTQIA teachers feel safe to be themselves in a school environment.

State-Level Recommendations

  • Survey data from LGBTQIA individuals who say they have been discriminated against in Texas is nonexistent, possibly due to fear of being outed to colleagues and/or supervisors. The Texas Legislature could commission the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), which already surveys LGBTQIA youth, to conduct a statewide study on the impact on discrimination against LGBTQIA teachers. Lawmakers could use the survey results as a resource for legislative efforts and decision-making.
  • The HRC could fund this survey through a grant from the Health and Human Services Commission.
  • The American Federation of Teachers should create a state chapter composed of LGBTQIA teachers to help educate on, advocate for, and implement nondiscrimination laws within districts across Texas.

School District-Level Recommendations

  • School officials without nondiscrimination policies for LGBTQIA teachers should review nondiscrimination policies that currently exist within the state of Texas in districts such as Austin, Fort Worth, Dallas, and Houston ISDs.
  • School district officials should adopt language modeled after one of the above districts’ policies and amend their employee welfare policy to include LGBTQIA-inclusive language and include sexual orientation and gender identity expression as covered under the nondiscrimination policy within their school district.
  • Leadership at the school and district level should be required to complete an LGBTQIA sensitivity training course in order to understand the community and be aware of words and actions that may perpetuate a heteronormative school culture infused with internalized homophobia.

9 thoughts on “Back Into the Closet: Why Texas Needs Nondiscrimination Laws for LGBTQIA Teachers

  1. I am a parent of a “LGBTQIA” child who suffered much physical & emotinal abuse growing up. I’m all for protection laws AND discretion. I don’t see the point of bringing controversial issues into the public arena. While public schools are an education facility we are failing tremendously in language, reading, math, science & financial management. The personal and cultural lessons are controversial and distracts from preparing our youth for gainful employment. I don’t see how spouses, siblings, parents etc serve any purpose or should consume time rather than employment or career essentials.

    I’m not really sure how “740,448 LGBTQIA” is quantified given most live in fear & silence so please be consistent.

    • As long as it needs to be. Each of those letters represents a minority of the total population of the world. Using inclusive language when discussing issues the queer community faces such as employment discrimination is one small way of recognizing the humanity of LGBTQIA individuals and removing the stigma and stereotypes they face. Is it perfect solution? Maybe not. Is it better than dismissing attempts to include these populations in the conversation? Absolutely.

  2. All humans deserve respect and dignity regardless of race, color, creed or sexual identity.
    Along with the proposed protection, all Texas teachers need state legislation granting them collective bargaining rights.
    Slavery ended 154 years ago.

  3. I agree with Juarez.
    I think Cathy Criado is right.
    Lol You said it Regan Murphy!

    Truth be told these distinctions or labels are very mucb contributing to the very diviceness that this acronym sought to empower. Human beings have been categorized and compartmentalized, profiled, and surveyed, grouped and sequestered since the beginning of time. From tribal warfare to democratic or conservative, all these instruments of division have their roots on one central theme…our differences. Its only natural that based on that premise that anyone presented with this information would choose a side you most identify in, and so by default you position yourself at odds with the other group. It used to be you were either gay or straight. Then the concept of bisexuality entered the foray and blew our minds for about a decade. Now its up to 8. And pretty soon itll be even higher as we discover the incredibly vast depth of the human pysche. Ultimately there will be so many categories they will become irrelevant as they should. We can all identify with one label more than the other because we get to define what those labels mean. The naturally existing condition is that human beings are in every way imaginable be it sexuality, gender association or whichever of the infinite number of groups we have managed to disect ourselves into, can fall anywhere along a vast spectrum. In truth wether it is innate or by external influences, this entire spectrum remains a possibility for any of us. Thats because this spectrum is itself comprised of one central similarity …Love

    • Acknowledging that which makes us different from one another does not automatically mean that we seek to divide ourselves. It is up to those in power to create systems that allow all of to peacefully co-exist. It is not the responsibility of a minority group to diminish itself or hide in the shadows so the majority doesn’t have to feel uncomfortable.

      For example, how is divisive to include trans people in the conversation about employment discrimination in Texas? Will leaving them out of the dialogue stop them from getting fired for being themselves? Will trans people stop feeling the way they do if we just tell them to go away and stop asking us to recognize their community’s unique needs and perspective? My experience has taught me that it not the case.

      You talk about the centrality of love, but it seems that you only want to love those who fall into your narrow definition of humanity and anyone who challenges you on that can be ignored because they are being divisive.

  4. While I agree that Bailey was descriminated against, ignoring the parents concerns and desires to NOT have their children exposed to her choice of life style is ALSO descrimination. They could have allowed the students to change teachers, but then what do you do when few or no students want her as a teacher? Tell your community “too bad, she stays and your child WILL be in her class”. Try it and watch what happens.

    As a middle-age, white, conservative male whos life style is now under attack from the Left, LGBTQIA, and many other factions, are you prepared to add the initials CWM to your acronym since we are now under attack? I doubt it.

    It has been my experience that these groups don’t want equality, they demand restitution and superiority for all the “wrongs” visited upon them.

    Just go to work and do your job, keep your religious, political and sexual preference to yourself instead of flaunting your “differences”. You’ll quickly see how little anyone else cares.

  5. Just to amplify the points above:
    I just heard a talk by a medical doctor who was born in Afghanistan, studied in an English only school there until the Russians invaded, and then came to America as an 8th grader.

    He then studied hard, became a Medical Doctor and heart surgeon. Invented a new method used in heart surgeries, and invented a soap to solve skin problems like eczema.

    I heard another talk before that by a man who graduated from high school, worked hard, learned to install air conditioning equipment, and is very successful.

    No one cared if one of those men was LGBTQIA or not. But chances are huge that neither tried to convince others of their viewpoint or convert others’ children to the viewpoint that LGBTQIA was a desirable, beneficial lifestyle or not. They just repaired hearts, repaired or replaced air conditioners and nobody cared if they were LGBTQIA or not.

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