LGBTQ+ organizations file title IX complaint against Buncombe County Board of Education for implementing SB49, anti-LGBTQ+ state law

Press release from Campaign for Southern Equality

On Tuesday, December 12, Youth OUTright, PFLAG Asheville, and Campaign for Southern Equality filed a Title IX complaint against the Buncombe County Board of Education (BCBE). The complaint alleges that the policies passed by BCBE to comply with state law S.B. 49, NC’s version of the “Don’t Say LGBTQ+” law, create a hostile educational environment for LGBTQIA+ students, families, staff and faculty. In doing so, they violate civil rights protected by Title IX and Buncombe County Schools’ obligation to provide every student with a safe and non-discriminatory school environment.

The complaint of discrimination, filed with the Buncombe County Title IX Coordinator, asks that implementation of the policies be immediately put on hold. Click here to read it.

Craig White (he/they pronouns), Supportive Schools Director at the Campaign for Southern Equality, spoke at the school board meeting and has been working to educate school boards across North Carolina of the ways that S.B. 49 violates Title IX. He said today:

“We file this complaint more in sorrow than in anger. It was clear that the BCS policy committee did what they could to reduce the harm caused to LGBTQ young people by S.B.49. But less harm is not no harm, and after hearing the testimony of students, families, and educators, it was clear that we have to take all possible steps to prevent the provisions in this discriminatory state law from going into effect in Buncombe County.”

For the past several months, dozens of Buncombe County students, family members, educators, mental health professionals, and LGBTQIA+ advocates have testified at board meetings asking BCBE not to comply with S.B. 49. This law, passed in August following the NCGA’s override of Governor Roy Cooper’s veto, includes policies that censor LGBTQ-related content from school curriculum and require school personnel to “out” transgender students to parents, rather than allowing students to come out to their parents on their own terms. On Thursday, December 7, BCBE voted to implement policies to comply with S.B. 49 despite the objections of approximately 40 community members.

KT Merseles (they/she pronouns), a Board member at Asheville PFLAG, said: “SB49 – the ‘Don’t Say LGBTQ+’ bill in NC – is a cruel attempt to stigmatize and marginalize LGBTQ children, faculty, and their families in the state. This is part of a crusade against the LGBTQ population, designed to rile up an extremist base nationwide. The policies passed recently in the Buncombe County School Board violate our children’s rights to a safe and non-discriminatory environment in schools. Asheville PFLAG will continue to advocate alongside the Campaign for Southern Equality and Youth OUTright to ensure the civil rights of our families are upheld.”

Adrian Parra (he/she/they pronouns), Executive Director of Youth OUTright WNC, said: “Youth OUTright sees SB49 for what it is: A deceptive, violent piece of policy that targets already marginalized LGBTQIA+ youth and families. Censorship, forced outing, and adding undo burden to our school personnel will do nothing but create an even more hostile environment for all youth. Youth, parents, health professionals and youth advocates have spoken widely on the negative impact of policies like SB49. The policy creates clear Title IX violations. Youth OUTright urges the school board to refuse to implement SB49 in the interest of creating healthy environments for all youth to learn and grow. We cannot allow discrimination, misinformation, and false panic cloud our decision-making. SB49 is dangerous, ill-informed, and discriminatory. Queer and trans folks deserve not just to be represented, but also to be celebrated!”

In October, the Campaign for Southern Equality published a legal memorandum about S.B. 49, highlighting the many ways that S.B. 49 creates a hostile educational environment for LGBTQ+ students and, in doing so, violates Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which bars discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in schools. Click here to view the memo.  The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction and North Carolina State Board of Education responded to that memo stating that they required a determination from the US Department of Education Office of Civil Rights.

In this week’s Title IX complaint, Youth OUTright, PFLAG Asheville, and Campaign for Southern Equality request that Buncombe County Schools delay all implementation of SB49-related policies until the determination is made. Furthermore, public testimony made it clear that the hostile educational environment for LGBTQIA+ students, staff, and families already exists in Buncombe County Schools. The organizers also request that BCS seek guidance, support, and training with local organizations that work with LGBTQIA+ youth and families to address this situation.

Learn more about S.B. 49 at the Campaign for Southern Equality’s S.B. 49 Resource Hub.

Based in Asheville, NC, the Campaign for Southern Equality promotes full LGBTQ equality across the South. Our work is rooted in commitments to equity in race, gender and class.

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