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Thu., March 6, 2014

Editorial: Coeur d’Alene schools should pass LGBT protections

The city of Coeur d’Alene passed an ordinance that protects lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered residents from discrimination, and now a citizen is asking the Coeur d’Alene School District to do the same.

Susan Moss, an attorney and parent, is concerned that because the district is a division of state government, the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance may not apply to students and employees. The school board has asked its legal staff to look into the matter, and it’s possible that the district may end up tackling this issue. If it does, there will be plenty of time for public input.

The district should pass an equality policy regardless of the legal finding because the city’s ordinance could always be overturned. This is an issue in Pocatello, where the city and the school district adopted anti-discrimination measures. (Idaho Falls has done the same.) However, some Pocatello residents who objected to the city ordinance succeeded in making it a ballot measure to be decided in May. If the ordinance is repealed, the school district’s anti-discrimination policy would be unaffected.

Moss made her request at Monday’s school board meeting, and it was met with objections that provide a preview of opposition arguments. Tim Scott, a former tennis coach at Lake City High School, and John Padula, who operates a faith-based halfway house, were upset that Moss and some board members had exchanged emails on this issue. Board members denied they were being deceptive. But this is a sideshow, because a decision is a long way off.

The chief complaint is that homosexuality doesn’t merit protections against discrimination. Padula told board members who had yet to take up the topic, “You’re stripping the moral values of our kids by leading in dishonesty and deception.” Scott worries that an anti-discrimination policy “would create a special class and a special group of individuals, which could ultimately open the door to allow these individuals access to their respective opposite restrooms and showers facilities and provide them with special privileges not available to other students,” according to the Coeur d’Alene Press.

Alarmist critics seem to ignore the fact that predictions of dire consequences are never fulfilled in communities and schools that treat LGBT citizens as equals.

If supporters of discrimination would visit Spokane schools, they would find that equality isn’t undermining education. Students with admirable values and intact morals are thriving. P.E. classes and sports are conducted without locker room drama. Bathroom breaks are uneventful.

There’s no compelling reason to reintroduce discrimination. There’s no reason it wouldn’t be the same in Coeur d’Alene.

Eight years ago, an Idaho legislator tried to scuttle the Gay-Straight Alliance, a Lake City High School club, by sponsoring a bill that would’ve mandated parental signatures before students could join any club.

The club is still there, and harm has yet to join up.

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