HSE School Board approves revised non-discrimination policy

Hamilton Southeastern Schools Administration building. (WTHR Staff)
HSE Board Approves Anti-Discrimination Policy
HSE non-discrimination policy

FISHERS, Ind. (WTHR) — School board members at Hamilton Southeastern have passed an anti-discrimination policy after some controversial comments were made at the last meeting.

In a new filing of the agenda for Wednesday's meeting, the non-discrimination policy was revised to change two of three issues opponents had with the policy.

Among those is the removal of the term "unlawful" when referring to harassment and discrimination. Another change is from "gender nonconformity" to "gender identity" as a protected class.

"I have dealt with a lot of discrimination and have been treated poorly because of the way I identify and I've lost many friendships and a lot of the times those people that were treating me poorly, I would report them and they wouldnt get repremanded for doing, so that and I want to set an example or a standard for everyone else in the future," said Hayden, a 14-year-old student.

With those adjustments, the organization HSEqual told Eyewitness News before Wednesday's meeting they will support the new non-discrimination policy.

A statement from HSEqual reads in part: "The parents, students, residents, and allies in HSEqual are proud that the Board was able to write an inclusive policy that does not leave out transgender students."

This is how the adjusted policy will read:

Hamilton Southeastern School Corporation will not discriminate or tolerate any form of discrimination in its educational or employment activities for any reason or on any basis prohibited by applicable federal and state laws, including race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, age or disability. This includes but is not limited to a characteristic, trait, belief, practice, association or other attribute. Hamilton Southeastern Schools will foster a culture and environment that does not marginalize, treat unfairly or disrespect any member of our school community and will recognize the uniqueness and individuality of all students, educators, staff and administrators so they have an opportunity to succeed.

This commitment applies to all School Corporation operations, programs, and activities. All students, administrators, teachers, staff, and all other school personnel share responsibility for avoiding, discouraging, and reporting any form of harassment or discrimination. This policy applies to conduct occurring on school grounds immediately before, during, or immediately after school hours; in any school program or activity taking place in school facilities, on school transportation, or at other off‐campus locations, such as at school‐sponsored field trips or a training program; or using property or equipment provided by the school, including school‐ owned computers and the school’s computer network.

The immediate remedy for any act of discrimination shall be to end it, treat the individuals involved equitably, and, as much as practically possible, eradicate any effects of discrimination. The school corporation may impose discipline as appropriate.

The issue came to a head on April 25 when the board voted to approve language that LGBTQ students and supporters felt did not protect them.

The next day Fishers Mayor Scott Fadness posted a response on Facebook saying in part: "It is my hope and [ I ] ask that the HSE School Board will enumerate those most vulnerable in their anti-discrimination policy and bring us one small step closer to a more complete community."

After Wednesday's vote, Fadness released the following statement:

"I commend the action of the school board tonight to adopt a new non-discriminatory policy that ensures all students have protections against discrimination and demonstrates to all students that they have the support of their school community. Thank you to the board members who worked on the new non-discriminatory language and who listened to the students, teachers and public.

As Fishers has grown, so has our diversity. And that is something we should celebrate and recognize. We must continually strive to create a culture of respect and inclusiveness in our schools and throughout our city. There is more we can do to ensure every person knows they are valued, welcome, and respected as an important member of our vibrant city.

No matter who you are or what you believe, we are neighbors. We are one community. There is more work that needs to be done toward that goal. Tonight is one important step forward."