Back in January, Robert watched as the DISD board, which has the amazing skill of stretching out any conversation to 10 times its natural length, debated the qualities they'd like to see in a new superintendent. Last night, Resource Center Dallas CEO Cece Cox sent the board an open letter, reminding them not to forget about reaching out to DISD's LGBT students and parents.
"It is important that the next DISD superintendent have cultural competency in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues, especially in educational settings," Cox wrote. She also praised the district's nondiscrimination policies, which were revised in 2011, saying, "Clearly with the recent policy changes DISD is ahead of most, if not all, Texas school districts. Yet, far too often, there is a gap between policy and practice. Whoever is chosen to lead DISD should champion the expectation that policies are more than just words on paper, they are how the district conducts business."
"If that policy is going to have any teeth to it whatsoever, they need to be paying attention and providing support," Cox told us by phone this morning. "If that's not on the radar screen of our superintendent, then is the policy really going to get implemented in the district?" Making sure "all LGBT students are safe," she said, is something that starts with the superintendent.
To that end, in her letter Cox also asked the board to remember the lesbian and gay parents in the district, to enforce the new anti-bullying policy, and to "provide appropriate support to LGBT students."
"That's a message that gets established and then implemented at the top down," Cox said. She's not saying that DISD doesn't already do its best to support LGBT students, she added. "But in large systems, there are sometimes gaps in the culture, and I want the superintendent to be caring about these issues and paying attention to them."
We couldn't recall LGBT issues specifically coming up in any of the previous discussions about superintendency, so we called the DISD HQ.
"LGBT?" asked the lady answering the phones at DISD's media relations office. "What's that?"
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We told her. She took the message and said a spokesperson would get back to us. We'll update accordingly. Cox's full letter to the board is below.
Update, 12:35 p.m.: DISD spokesperson Jon Dahlander reminds us that tomorrow is, as it happens, the deadline for superintendent candidates to submit their applications. DISD board president Lew Blackburn hadn't yet seen the letter, he said, but added that DISD strives to create "not just a tolerant but a welcoming environment for everyone."