The Fayette County Board of Education unanimously approved new policy language Monday night to protect students, teachers and school district employees from discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.
Fayette County joins about half a dozen other Kentucky public school districts that specifically prohibit such discrimination. All of Kentucky's 174 public school districts ban discrimination based on gender.
Fayette's new policy goes into effect immediately.
Superintendent Tom Shelton said the new provision was added as a part of the district's regular annual policy review, after some community groups requested the change.
"We received requests last year from some of our community partners, including the Fayette County Education Association and the Kentucky Fairness Alliance, to take a look at it," he said.
Shelton said the groups requested the change because they had heard of some reports of bullying or harassment of people based on their gender identity or sexual orientation.
Fayette Schools already prohibit harassment or discrimination based on race, creed, color or religion. The update adds gender identity and sexual orientation to that list.
It covers students and certified and classified employees.
"Technically, these groups always have been covered by law, so we aren't adding anyone who has not been there already," Shelton said. "We don't tolerate harassment toward any student or employee. But we just felt this new language makes a stronger statement so that people understand what our stance is."
Brad Hughes, a spokesman for the Kentucky School Boards Association, said the U.S. Department of Education holds that Kentucky school districts' general prohibition against discrimination based on sexual discrimination covers all discrimination involving gender.
"But about half a dozen boards wanted more specific language and have added sexual orientation or gender identity," he said.
Also Monday night, board members gave Shelton glowing grades on his first annual evaluation since becoming school superintendent last year. They said he met or exceeded expectations in eight measures including leadership, community relations and professional standards.
Shelton was paid about $244,000 in his first year. He will receive a 2 percent raise in the coming year, the same as other district employees.
Jim Warren: (859) 231-3255.