Knox County Schools employment harassment policy raises questions, concerns

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT)-- The Knox County Schools District is being met with controversy for the way it backs its LGBTQ employees.

"Some of them are shocked, some of them are scared, some of them are wondering what's going on," said Crystal Yamazaki.

The district is under fire for a proposed revision to its employee harassment policy, a change some members of the LGBTQ community feel doesn't protect them.

"It would just be moving back in time and endangering teachers' rights," said Yamazaki.

With her transgender daughter and the gay community in mind, Yamazaki is fighting the district's proposal to change policy wording about an employee's gender or sexual orientation. The change would strike those words and replace them with the word "sex."

"You can't substitute 'sex' and then eliminate gender and sexual orientation because they are not the same thing," said Yamazaki.

Patti Bounds, Chair of the Knox County Board of Education, said the board reviews its policies every two years, and that possibly changing this one has sparked dozens of concerned emails from the community.

"We were going with just the term 'sex,' which would include gender identity and sexual orientation," said Bounds. "It was in no attempt to limit, but to be more aligned with state law; our policy is all inclusive," she continued.

Bounds said faculty and staff have nothing to worry about. She said it's the language, not the protection, that's changing.

"We just did not single out one particular group, and that's why the language was changed," said Bounds.