The Albany County School District No. 1 Board of Education is considering a change to the first draft of the district's new nondiscrimination policy.

The proposed change would remove the words “sexual orientation” from the list of characteristics the district cannot discriminate against. The draft has not been adopted by the school board, and the proposed change to the draft would not alter the language in the first clause of the current policy.

School Board officials say the proposed change to the draft would keep district policy aligned with federal law without changing the policy’s purpose.

“As we’ve been looking at updating our policies, we looked at some different wording in our nondiscrimination statement and in one of the drafts, we had sexual orientation in there,” says School Board Chair Janice Marshall. “But as we did some studies and looked at other statements and other things that have transpired around the country, it seems like [the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights] and the Department of Justice have made it clear that they see transgender discrimination as a form of sex discrimination and any violations will be dealt with as Title IX enforcement matters.”

Marshall says keeping the words ‘sexual orientation’ out of the policy while ‘sex’ remains in the policy keeps the district in compliance with federal language required in a nondiscrimination statement while also aligning with Title IX protections.

“It makes us consistent with other statements and particularly with the federal statement that has been worked over,” says Marshall. “It seems like, as I’ve looked at other cases and with OCR rulings, that the word ‘sex’ covers any form of sex discrimination.”

“People are entitled to their sexual orientation,” says Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources and Quality Learning Mike Hamel. “We just need our policy to be in line with federal statute.”

A spokesperson at the U.S. Department of Education said in an email "Although Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 does not cover discrimination against students based solely on sexual orientation, it does apply to discrimination based on an individual’s failure to conform to sex stereotypes, gender expression, and gender identity.  Moreover, Title IX protects all students, regardless of sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation, from sex discrimination, including sexual harassment."

“I think the intent of nondiscrimination is there and it’s just as strong as it would have been if… sexual orientation was in there,” says Marshall. “We felt like it was covered by the word ‘sex’ and we didn’t need to add additional words to that policy.”

“Do keep in mind that this is a suggestion, and it will be on the agenda for approval by the board at next week’s meeting, so no action has been taken yet,” says Marshall.