- Associated Press - Thursday, September 8, 2016

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - The Omaha school district’s anti-discrimination policy will now cover gender identity and expression.

Under the new policy, all allegations of discrimination could start with a complaint to school staff but would eventually be accepted by the Superintendent of Schools.

The Omaha Public Schools board voted unanimously Wednesday night to expand the policy. The crowded meeting brought a range of opinions on policies affecting transgender students.

Several speakers asked the board to send a strong message of support to transgender students by expanding the district’s anti-discrimination policy.

“I urge you not to fail current and future students in the Omaha Public Schools system,” said Dylan Murphy, 31, a transgender man who attended Omaha Public Schools before transferring to Millard Public Schools in eighth grade. “Right now OPS has a chance to do something huge.”

Others disagreed, saying adding these terms to the policy would create more problems for LGBT students.

“Do all you can to keep them safe,” Pastor Michael Williams said of transgender students. “But please do not create a policy that legitimizes, normalizes and affirms the LGBT and transgender lifestyles.”

Several parents and students told the board they would welcome more protections for transgender students.

“I’m not concerned in the least that my daughter or my son would be corrupted by learning more about gender identity or expression,” said Daniel Hawkins, a parent. “I am scared for the way (transgender students) will be treated in the absence of strong policy that protects them.”

Bridget Donovan, president of the Omaha Education Association, said teachers will support all students.

“We stand not only with and beside but in front of our LGBTQIA students,” she said. “We believe all our students, including these students, deserve a safe, secure and nurturing environment.”

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