Loudoun School Board rejects adding LGBT protection

WASHINGTON — After weeks of debate and two delayed votes, Virginia’s Loudoun County School Board rejected language that would add “sexual orientation and gender identity” to protected groups in its equal employment policy.

However, the board voted unanimously to add a paragraph stating the school system hires based on excellence and merit, and values diversity in employees and students.

Discussion leading up to the vote has centered on whether the board would be overstepping its authority if it adopted policies that go beyond state and federal laws.

In offering the compromise language, board member Eric Hornberger said the amendment which was defeated had “stated everything in the negative — ‘we won’t do this, this and this’ — but it never says what we’re going to do, and what we value.”

Before the 5-4 vote, which declined to add language to specifically protect LGBTQ employees from harassment and discrimination, school board members made their final arguments.

“For those who sent emails referencing biblical reasons for not including these additional groups of people, I implore you to reach down deep and examine what overwhelming themes your faith teaches you because my faith teaches me to love, to love my neighbors as myself, and that judgment is not mine,” said Beth Huck, a board member who voted for the amendment.

Board member Jill Turgeon said the amendment wouldn’t be helpful.

“I am not in favor of establishing policies to mandate human goodness — LCPS (Loudoun County Public Schools) is a loving and very inclusive environment.”

Several board members said they should wait for guidance from Virginia courts and the U.S. Supreme Court, before considering whether they needed to update the protected groups to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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