VIRGINIA BEACH–The Virginia Beach School Board is considering a new way to protect gay students from bullying.
The board is looking into whether it should put on its legislative agenda -- a request for the General Assembly to amend the Virginia Human Rights Act to cover sexual orientation and gender identity.
Currently, Virginia Beach’s anti-harassment policy does not specifically cover sexual orientation because it's not covered under that act.
"There's a reason why the Virginia Human Rights Act, our employment policy and our anti-harassment policy includes classes of people and it's because we know that these people have been historically and systematically discriminated against," said Joel McDonald, an openly gay school board member.
McDonald supports asking the General Assembly to amend the law to ensure student safety and to protect school’s employees.
"Virginia unfortunately is still a place where someone can be fired for being gay,” said McDonald. “That's something that, although the school system has no record of ever having done that, we want to make it clear and explicit in our policy that we don't do."
Other school board members say the board’s legislative agenda, which is a list of what the city wants the General Assembly to consider next year, may not be the best way to get the change.
"Philosophically, I believe it is a message that needs to be sent. I'm not certain that our legislative agenda is the proper means,” said Dan Edwards, school board chairman. “Typically our agenda focuses on items that more directly relate to students achievement and our ability to provide that, but again I agree with the message."
The board will vote on its legislative agenda November 6.