KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – The Knox County Board of Education will be voting on changes to the school harassment policies in two weeks at their next meeting. If passed, it would do away with the language that protects gay, lesbian and transgender students and staff.
On Friday, students protested the possible changes today with demonstrations held at two schools.
The Gay Straight Alliance at Bearden High School shared a video of their protest inside the school. One student can be heard saying, “I don’t want to take a step backwards.”
Mutual feelings were expressed by the Equality Club at L&N STEM Academy.
“We are here and we won’t be silent. We matter,” said Emily Coile, a 16-year-old student.
Students chose to demonstrate at the school right before class started, so they could have their voices heard.
Coile adds, “We will let everyone know that we are here and we want equal rights.”
The district is proposing removing the words “actual or perceived gender” and “sexual orientation” from the harassment policies for students and employees. If the changes were to pass by a vote, the previous language would be replaced with the word “sex”.
“I am a bisexual person and to know that if I were harassed on Knox County Schools’ property, that I am not legally protected on the basis of my sexual orientation, but only on sex, which only refers to the biological sex of a person, I feel like my protections are being taken away and that’s really scary,” said Jenna Rochelson, a 16-year-old student.
The school system says they are considering changing the language in some policies but also say, “Knox County Schools does not tolerate discrimination or harassment of its students and employees for any reason. Proposed changes to the policies would not limit those protections.”
A vote will be made on October 11.