Equality Virginia pleased with attorney general opinion regarding school nondiscrimination policies

equality virginiaOn Wednesday, Attorney General Mark Herring released an opinion stating that school boards in Virginia have the authority to expand their anti-discrimination policies to encompass sexual orientation and gender identity.

“This is great news for Virginia’s school boards as well as gay and transgender public school employees,” said James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia.  “School boards across the commonwealth now have the freedom to create and implement inclusive policies that align with the non-discrimination policies already in place at the majority of Virginia’s leading employers.  Employees should be judged on their qualifications, experience, and the job they do – nothing more and nothing less.

Wednesday’s opinion implicates non-discrimination policies with respect to both students and school employees.  As part of its safe schools work, Equality Virginia has been working with school boards to implement bullying policies enumerated with sexual orientation and gender identity.  In 2012, less than 2 percent of Virginia’s public school students attended a school with such a policy.  Today, more than 20 percent of Virginia’s public school students are protected.

“This opinion will allow us to strengthen our advocacy efforts in school districts throughout the commonwealth,  we are excited that we can now work with school boards to implement policies to protect not only students, but also employees,” said Parrish.

The opinion released overrules a 2002 opinion that said school boards had no authority to enact employment non-discrimination policies.  The opinion also concluded that school boards may not discriminate in the provision of benefits to employees who are married according to whether the employee’s spouse is of the same or opposite gender.

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