Two students from Blue Springs South High School made a presentation to the city’s Human Relations Commission this week, asking for assistance in lobbying for increased protection for members of the Blue Springs LGBT community.
Shelby Norman, a junior and co-president of her school’s Young Democrats club, read a letter they had written aloud to the commission, along with fellow student, Natalie Tran, a sophomore at South.
The students cited chapter 265 of Blue Springs City Code, entitled Fair Housing, which grants protection from discrimination against many different items, but not sexual orientation or gender identity.
“We feel it’s important that everyone has equal protection under the law, especially when it comes to serious things like housing,” Norman read. “It (Chapter 265) never says anything about sexual orientation, so they can discriminate against people of the LGBT+ community.”
Norman said the language addressing discrimination in the chapter is counterproductive to its declaration, and needs to be more inclusive in order to actively prevent discriminaiton.
Chapter 265 of the City Code currently addresses race, sex, color, national origin, ancestry, religion, religous affiliation, physical handicap, and whether or not a family has children.
“We believe that the spirit of Chapter 265 is a nobel one,” Norman said, adding, “The students of BSS High School believe sexual orientation and gender identification should be included. We believe that all citizens deserve the economic empowerment that is housing.”
Norman showed the commission the collection of signatures received from other Blue Springs South students supporting the letter.
Norman and Tran referenced the Missouri Supreme Court’s recent decision to allow a transgender student from the Blue Springs district, now graduated, to pursue a case to require the schools to allow transgender students to use the restroom that matches their gender identity. They said the ruling provided momentum for them to raise more awareness for the young LGBT community in the district.
“The movement itself really sparked at Blue Springs South and in the Blue Springs School District,” said Tran. “I think it’s our responsibility as Blue Springs School District students to continue that movement.”
Both students stated they feel there is more the district can do to protect LGBT students, and would like to see the school set rules similar to those protecting students against racial discrimination. Tran said she feels safe that no one at school will harass her because of her race and heritage, but that safety does not extend to what she described as the other half of her identity.
“I don’t want just one part of myself to be included in these protections,” she said.
Norman echoed her thoughts, saying, “It’s weird to go to school knowing that if a teacher says something to me or does something, I’m not protected by the district.” She added that students don’t always report issues related to this type of discrimination because they don’t always feel safe reporting it.
Members of the Human Relations Commission listened to both students’ words and encouraged them to designate the specific ways discrimination can be addressed, so the students could design and request a plan of action. The commission also stressed to Norman and Tran that the board has an open position for a student representative, which could potentially provide an avenue to promote their cause.
Norman said their visit and letter to the commission was a first step to familiarize the group with their intent, and they plan on returning in the future to discuss how to address the need they see in the community.