Ames among districts to list orientation in policy

Jill Pearson

Of Iowa’s 371 school districts, the Ames Community School District is one of only a handful to include sexual orientation in its discrimination policies.

The district is one of at least four with orientation in a policy, said Lisa Bartusek, communications director for the Iowa Association of School Boards.

Sheila Lundt, assistant to the Ames city manager, said no specific incident caused the city to include sexual orientation to the discrimination policy in March 1991. Both ISU and Ames High representatives said harassment cases related to sexual orientation have “not been an issue.”

“[Ames High] has done a pretty exceptional job of providing harassment training and awareness,” said Tim Taylor, Ames deputy superintendent of schools.

“Sexual orientation” is “actual or perceived heterosexuality, homosexuality or bisexuality. `Sexual orientation’ does not include participation in acts which are prohibited by law,” according to the Ames city code.

Lundt said there was no particular issue that brought the addition to the code. The city commission periodically makes revisions to the code and had sent a survey about the Ames’ climate for certain groups.

“Specific anecdotal responses were given and a number of people reported being treated differently on the basis of sexual orientation,” Lundt said.

Up until that point, there had been no place where people could report incidents. The recommendation was to add to the ordinance for a sexual orientation clause.

“The unanimous vote was a strong statement made to the community of Ames,” she said.

Since the 1991 addition, there have been fewer than 10 cases brought to the attention of the commission, Lundt said.

The same holds true within the Ames school district, Taylor said. Since 1997, when the sexual orientation discrimination policy was added, there have been no complaints filed relative to harassment in accordance to sexual orientation.

The atmosphere on campus toward the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community is more positive than negative, said Jeremy Hayes, coordinator of LGBT Student Services,

An effort has been made within the residence halls to train the student staff on sexual orientation, said Hayes, graduate student in educational leadership and policy studies.