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Social worker speaks against Central Islip school pitch for gender role policy

From left, Central Islip Senior High School senior

From left, Central Islip Senior High School senior Faith Shepherd, 17, and her best friend Valerie Baez, 17, are chosen as this year's homecoming king and queen. Shepherd, who said she is a lesbian, said she ran for homecoming king to make a statement about gender roles in society. (Oct. 12, 2013) Credit: Ursula Moore

A social worker spoke out this week against the Central Islip school district's proposed policy that would limit homecoming king and queen selections to their gender roles.

School officials drafted the policy after a local pastor complained that a student, Faith Shepherd, 17, who said she came out as a lesbian when she was 13, violated "tradition" when she was selected last fall as the homecoming king at Central Islip High School.

Erin Furey, who works with LGBT adolescents at Bellmore-based Pride for Youth, told the board that students are protected under the New York State Dignity for All Students Act, which states that students cannot be subject to discrimination based on gender identity or expression.

"No adult can tell a student what they can wear in regards to their gender, what they may be called or which gender role they can assume for student-chosen activities," Furey said. "This acceptance, heralded by your district, is what cultivates the thriving adults that you so hope to raise."

Shepherd, who stood with Furey while she spoke, said after the meeting that she was inspired to run for king because she has a transgendered friend who had been bullied for years.

The proposed policy states that a male student should be named "King" and a female student "Queen."

A vote on the policy was tabled at the Dec. 9 meeting and the board's discussion on the policy was tabled again at Monday night's meeting until Feb. 10.

"The Board of Education tabled discussion over the months in an effort to ensure all voices are heard and the relative facts are reviewed," Superintendent Craig Carr said in a statement.

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