Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Why We Need State and Federal Non-Discrimination Laws That Include Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Sorry for the clunky title, but I couldn’t figure out another way to get the point across in a snappy clever way in fewer words. Nikki Williams has been teaching geography for three years and was an assistant volleyball at a public charter school just outside Dallas, TX for three years. She was about to realize a lifelong dream of coaching basketball this season too. From all accounts she is a popular and successful teacher/coach supported by students and parents. She has received positive performance evaluations and a letter of commendation from the superintendent. It all sounds good so far.

But just before basketball season started in October, Nikki was fired. Nikki filed a grievance with the school claiming that she was fired because she is a lesbian. Apparently school officials became aware of this when Nikki’s partner began attending volleyball games this fall.

Students and parents have rallied to support Nikki pressing school administrators to explain their decision. The parents and students are unconcerned about Nikki’s sexual orientation. They are upset that a popular and successful young teacher/coach is suddenly gone. A petition for her reinstatement has been signed by over 100 parents and 50 students. The total school enrollment is 300.

Administrators have denied that Nikki’s “gender preference” (I assume they mean “sexual orientation”) played any role in their decision to dismiss Nikki. Parents and students asked what did prompt her firing. Administrators, hiding behind claims that they are prohibited from discussing the reasons by “privacy concerns” did a little evasive dance justifying their decision and refusing to reconsider it. They later claimed that her firing was due to a single incident in school when Nikki did not report some students who were skipping class. The parents think firing Nikki is an extreme and disproportionate reaction to the incident. I agree. To add insult to injury, administrators have tapped a former football coach to coach the girls’ basketball team. He has never coached basketball or girls and apparently resigned a previous coaching position because a grievance of some kind was filed against him. I guess school officials are reassured that there is probably not much of a chance he is a lesbian. Surely an unqualified man with a questionable professional record must be a better role model for the team, right?

Back to the title of this post – The saddest part of this situation is that Nikki may have no legal protections to challenge her dismissal. Texas is one of 29 states that do no protect its citizens from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. No federal laws prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity either.

Bigotry and stupidity looks like it might win this round in the long term fight to have coaches and teachers evaluated on the basis of their work and personal integrity rather than who they love. Nikki’s students and their parents get this. Too bad the school administrators don’t.

This article includes contact information for the Life School Waxahachie administration if you want to let them know your thoughts on this.


Discrimination Lawyer Boston said...

Because many are subjected to abuse because of their sexual identity.

Anonymous said...

Texas is an "At Will" employment State. They don't need a basis to terminate her, period. This is also why unions don't work out so well in Texas and why many manufacturers have moved their factories to the state.

If 100 parents signed the petition for her reinstatement that means 66% of the 300 parents did not sign the petition. The math seems pretty straightforward.

Finally my friends and I recently reviewed your "It Takes A Team" Education Kit that was published back in 2002 by the Women's Sports Foundation. Fortunately this exercise is no longer funded but I would note that your item "i" in the section titled
"Benefits of Addressing Homophobia in Sport" in indicates that you intend to "Redefine Masculinity".

While you and your girlfriends have made significant progress over the past few decades it seems far beyond sanity to think for a minute that even you people would actually think that you have any input into "redefining masculinity". The fact that you have the balls to actually put it out there and people like Billy Jean King, Donna Lopiano sign off on it actually highlights how out of touch you are with American society.

Lesbians don't get to redfine masculinity any more than guys like me get to redefine lesbianism. i suggest you don't press your luck.

Anonymous said...

Seems like you, (anon 2:08 PM poster) are doing a great job of defining yourself without any help or comment from anybody else.

Anonymous said...

I certainly hope so. I wasn't looking for help from you or anyone else.

What I actually did was to try to help any previously uninformed readers of this blog better understand that Pat's objective has little to do with sports and lots to do with how she and her friends like you want to reengineer society so it better fits with your worldview.

Even if that is your heartfelt yearning I suggest you don't put it out there where the CIS population can actually access it. It's one thing to have this objective in your little echo chamber. It won't stand the light of day if the general population becomes more aware of it.

Wyman Stewart said...

I researched the school's website and concluded, strange as her firing seems, it looks to be within the standards, in which the school operates.

Maybe they did fire her for being Lesbian. In a "Right-to-Work" state, they don't need a reason to fire you to get rid of you.

She seems to have been fired for cause connected to not sticking to school policy. I compare it to a high school I attended. It had an absurd hair policy that a boy's hair could not touch the collar of his shirt, without risking suspension from school. Despite warnings, which they did not owe him, a fellow-student was suspended for 3 days for hair touching his collar. Think this happened twice before his parents intervened to keep his hair short enough to keep him in school. Third time meant suspension for the year!

Life is arbitrary in some pretty lousy ways at times, which has nothing to do with anything other than you are the lucky, random or not-so-random, victim. A certain number of events you post to will be random events, not Gay/Lesbian, etc. bashing.

Society needs to separate and determine, which are which, and how to deal with the worst of these. It won't be easy. You will also need to accept that not all negatives have to do with gender ID, even when first appearing to.