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Students ask Rapid City for gender identity protections

May 26, 2019

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — A student group wants the Rapid City Area Schools Board of Education to prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity.

High school students from a group called Working to Initiate Societal Equality told board members last week that the district’s anti-discrimination policy should be updated because it doesn’t include gender identity.

The Rapid City Journal reports that the current policy forbids harassment and discrimination based on “age, citizenship, color, creed, disability, ethnic background, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sex,” sexual orientation or veteran status. However, there’s no language directly addressing gender.

The students brought the board a petition signed by about 240 of their peers. One student, Noelle Schendzielos, said after the meeting that her group wants to support their peers who identify as transgender or non-binary.

“I know that some of them feel like they have to hide it, because otherwise they get treated differently,” Schendzielos said.

School Board President Ron Riherd said board members have yet to discuss the proposal and administrators first need to determine whether gender identity is already encompassed in school policy as it stands. But, he said, “I understand where they’re coming from.”

In October, the Western Dakota Technical Institute included gender identity in its anti-discrimination policy. Administrators had said transgender people already were protected from discrimination because sex-based discrimination is prohibited in the institute’s policy, but that adding gender identity made the policy clearer.

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Information from: Rapid City Journal, http://www.rapidcityjournal.com

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