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UPDATE: Wichita School District Adds Protections For LGBTQ Students, Staff

Stephan Bisaha
KMUW/File photo

Transgender students and staff at Wichita Public Schools are now protected under a new nondiscrimination statement the school board approved Monday.

The statement specifically says the district will not discriminate based on gender identity and sexual orientation. Manhattan and Olathe added similar protections earlier this year. Topeka has included transgender students in its nondiscrimination policy for about a decade. 

The district has been examining its nondiscrimination policies since June.

During Monday's meeting, board member Ben Blankley said the district had taken its time making the change.

"You all made me wait," Blankley said. "I was about ready to bust through the doors of North High and say, 'I'm not going to vote on another thing on any agenda until we get this fixed.'"

But board member Ron Rosales said he's worried that the district is moving too fast. He suggested the board hold off from voting until the U.S. Supreme Court decides on a set of cases involving discrimination against LGBTQ employees.

"I would urge you just to be patient," Rosales said. "Our legal precedence right now is shaky at best."

Five Wichita BOE members voted to approve the new statement, with Rosales and Mike Rodee voting against.

Credit Deborah Shaar / KMUW/File Photo
KMUW/File Photo
Wichita Public Schools board member Mike Rodee announced his resignation after the board approved protections for LGBTQ students and staff. He withdrew his resignation Tuesday.

In response to the statement, Rodee unexpectedly announced his resignation, saying he didn't want to open himself up to potential lawsuits as a result of the new policy. 

"This scares me," the longtime representative said. "I don't want to be reading about this in CNN that we got sued for $10 million because we did something wrong."

On Tuesday Rodee rescinded his resignation, requesting in a statement that the board "continue to consider me an active member of this board.

"I believe in the vision and mission of our district, and remain committed to serving Wichita students."

The board's next steps will be crafting specific policies and staff training.

This story was updated at 5:01 p.m. Tuesday to reflect Mike Rodee's statement rescinding his resignation announcement. 
Stephan Bisaha reports on education and young adult life for the Kansas News Service. You can follow him on Twitter @SteveBisaha or email him at bisaha (at) kmuw (dot) org. The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio focused on the health and well-being of Kansans, their communities and civic life.

Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished by news media at no cost with proper attribution and a link to ksnewsservice.org.