AlliedNews.com - Grove City, Pennsylvania

February 14, 2014

'Sex orientation' nixed from harassment policy

By Felicia A. Petro/Senior Reporter
Allied News

GROVE CITY — Grove City school directors on Monday agreed to have "sexual orientation" and other terms removed from the district's proposed harassment policies, said the superintendent.

Sexual orientation, social status and economic circumstances were added to the harassment policies but the majority of the board wanted the classifications removed for discussion at February's work session meeting, noted Superintendent Dr. Richard Mextorf on Friday.

The harassment policies are among numerous policies in the district's policies and procedures manual that the board has been re-writing this year under the guidance of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.

PSBA recommended the sexual orientation, social status and economic circumstances classifications for the student and teacher harassment policies, in addition to government-mandated ones like race, color, sex, age, religion and national origin.

Mextorf said the policies and procedures manual was approved without the harassment policies and another policy regarding background checks for volunteers. However, those separate polices were given their first reading at Monday's business meeting, he added.

The sexual orientation term has been challenged for months by a group of concerned parents at the school board meetings.

They have presented articles about the term being added in policies as a gateway to organizations pushing radical gay politics in schools - and silencing any opposition to their agendas by calling it bullying or harassment. Such silencing has resulted in successful lawsuits in Pennsylvania.

Since sexual orientation isn't a federally mandated protected class - the district could be sued, the concerned group warns. One parent presented a petition against the term signed by 60 residents.

Some board members also expressed concerns about the legality of using non-mandated classifications in the harassment policies, so solicitor Tim McNickle tightened up the policies' language. A student or teacher would have to give proof that alleged harassment had substantially affected them for the district to take it seriously.

That new language was presented at the Jan. 13 work session; other board members stated they did not have a problem with the additions to the harassment policies.

Also to be discussed at next month's work session will be a request by a student to start a Gay-Straight Alliance Network club at the high school. The student is expected to come forward publicly before the board, who - along with the concerned parents -  on Jan. 13 expressed various concerns with having the club.

Mextorf said on Friday that a few other citizens spoke on Monday wondering why the sexual orientation term was such "a big deal."

A controversial policy that would open the door for relatives of board members to be hired as a teacher in the district - provided that the board was in agreement - was also approved on Monday. The district's policy formerly did not allow those hirings.

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In other business, Mextorf said a number of individuals spoke on Monday about work between the school and community.

Paul Goodman and Esther Falcetta talked to the board about the Grove City Community Garden located behind Hillview Intermediate Center, the superintendent said.

Chris Bauer, high school art teacher, spoke about art projects with his students, including a 50-year-old mural found at the school that will be complemented by another mural his students are now finishing for a 50-year celebration of art in the district in the works.

Laura Wienard, high school media specialist, spoke about the school's teen Rotary Club group, called Rotary InterAct.

Lori Verba, Hillview elementary teacher, and Tammi Martin, principal, talked about programs to provide warm clothing and food for needy kids in the district; and Brian Brown, a high school teacher, spoke about service work he and his students are doing for the Ronald McDonald House. Brown's family benefited from the program when his young son was sick.

The presenters took the first hour of the board meeting, Mextorf said.

"We called it 'community connections' to demonstrate that the school district is part of the community with kids and teachers reaching out to help others," he said.

Published Jan. 25, 2014, in Allied News. Pick up a copy at 201 A Erie St., Grove City.