GLAA calls for School Board to learn DC Human Rights Act
P.O. Box 75265
Washington, DC 20013
December 17, 2001
The Honorable Peggy Cooper Cafritz
D.C. Board of Education
825 North Capitol Street, N.E., 9th floor
Washington, D.C. 20002-4232
Dear Ms. Cafritz:
I attended the December 3 hearing before the Subcommittee on Human Rights, Latino Affairs and Property Management to testify on Bill 14-132, dealing with the treatment of harassment in D.C. schools. You and other public school representatives were the first witnesses before Subcommittee Chairman Jim Graham.
I was surprised to hear statements by one of your School Board colleagues, Tommy Wells, that indicated he was unaware of the full scope and protections provided by our existing Human Rights Act of 1977. Specifically, he commented that he did not know how a ban on personal appearance discrimination would affect the schools' ability to impose a dress code. But the 1977 Human Rights Act already bars personal appearance discrimination in all D.C. educational institutions.
We know that Mr. Wells is a good friend of the gay and lesbian community. But his unfamiliarity with the provisions of the District's comprehensive anti-discrimination law may reflect a similar gap in understanding by many, if not most of your colleagues. The School Board's institutional memory on anti-discrimination legislation, as on many other topics, may have been greatly compromised if not largely lost by the events of the late 1990s.
Accordingly, we strongly urge you, your colleagues, and appropriate staff to re-familiarize yourselves with the District's landmark civil rights law.
Concretely, we urge you to contact Mr. Neil Alexander, the Chief Hearing Examiner for the D.C. Commission on Human Rights, to arrange a briefing or to make other arrangements for this purpose. He may be reached at 727-0656.
We have spoken to Mr. Alexander about this and he has indicated his willingness to assist you in any way possible.
We hope you will be able to give speedy attention to this matter.
Thank you, and best wishes to you and your colleagues in this holiday season.
cc: All Board of Education Members
The Honorable Jim Graham
Neil Alexander, Commission on Human Rights
Charles Holman, Office of Human Rights
Wanda Alston, Office of the Mayor