EDMOND, Okla. — A pastor who hopes to eventually enroll his infant daughter in a central Oklahoma school district wants its LGBTQ policies more clearly defined, although the superintendent says the current "broad-language" policy provides enough protection.
Trey Witzel, associate pastor for First United Methodist Church of Edmond, asked the Edmond School Board late last year to expand the district’s statement on non-discrimination.
Witzel, an associate pastor at First United Methodist Church of Edmond, wants the same standard of other peer institutions in the area, specifically protecting “sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression.”
He said he wants to create a safe space for his newborn daughter, 5-month-old Sloane, whom he hopes to raise in the Edmond school district. Witzel said the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission states that sex — which is included in his statement — is considered adequate by many people, but he doesn't agree.
“Federally, this may be true, but many in the social sciences community believe it is important to differentiate; namely, that sex is but one component to our identities, and that it is precisely these unnamed identities that discrimination occurs," Witzel said.
Witzel has met with Associate Superintendent Debbie Bendick to consider the importance of expanding the district’s statement of non-discrimination. But Superintendent Bret Towne said having broad, general categories in the statement covers all groups, including those identified by Witzel.
“Shouldn’t we be assessing and reassessing our statements of value to make sure that as our student demographics change, our policy reflects the realities?" Witzel asked. “If we wanted a broad, general category, why not simply say, ‘We will tolerate no discrimination?’ It’s time we stand with a current marginalized group of students, faculty and staff.”
Witzel said that when an LGBTQ+ student has one affirming adult in his or her life, suicide drops 40 percent. He added that some LGBTQ+ teachers have told him they don't feel protected and even avoid putting pictures of their spouses on their desks for fear of losing their jobs.
Witzel said he is not charging anyone with discrimination or homophobia.
“This is simply what I and others believe to be a gap that can easily be filled, and it has been done so by our peer institutions,” Witzel said.