ISBA upholds its LGBTQ+ model policy in response to AG questioning

The Executive Director of the Idaho School Boards Association responded on Monday to a critical letter Attorney General Raúl Labrador sent last week, admonishing the organization for its role in developing model policies – especially an LGBTQ+ rights policy – for school districts and charters. Labrador’s letter came a few days after he questioned the legality of the LGBTQ+ policy on Twitter. 

In her response, Misty Swanson upheld the nonprofit’s role of helping school board members “carry out their school governance role in ever-changing environments,” including its model policy services. 

“We have maintained that our job is to provide schools with a framework on sensitive topics that navigates the layers of legal complexities, all to avoid costly litigation, intense investigations from the U.S. Department Office for Civil Rights, or the loss of federal funding,” Swanson wrote. 

Swanson pointed out the complexities that school board members face when choosing policies to implement: “… they must navigate inconsistent court rulings, or guidance and rules issues through federal agencies, some of which can and (have) changed overnight depending on who is elected to serve as President of the United States.”

And she iterated that ISBA’s model policies are all reviewed by education lawyers. The model policies are there as options for school boards to use, or not, at their discretion. Trustees also have the ability to tailor or rework the model policies as best fits their communities. 

The letter correspondence was sparked by recent uproar over an LGBTQ+ rights policy — a form of which has been adopted at about 60 Idaho school districts and charters — that protects students from discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.

Those who have adopted the controversial LGBTQ+ rights policy “have done it with compassion, as they work with students and their families who may have an individual personal need,” Swanson wrote. Either way, trustees are in a difficult position: “no matter what a school district or charter does, they are subjecting themselves either to litigation from non-accommodated LGBT students or upset … parents who disagree with those accommodations.”

The ISBA ensures that schools can accommodate students or parents who disagree or are uncomfortable with such policies. 

Swanson sidestepped or provided vague responses to some of the specific questions Labrador listed at the end of his letter, but offered to meet in person with Labrador or his staff to further discuss the policy and ISBA’s work. 

Swanson seemed eager to assuage the tensions between ISBA and the Attorney General’s office, noting that the nonprofit has “traditionally had an excellent working relationship with the Office of the Attorney General in Idaho.” Labrador has served just one month as Idaho’s attorney general after defeating Lawrence Wasden, who served Idaho for 20 years, in last year’s Republican primary. 



Carly Flandro

Carly Flandro

Carly Flandro reports from her hometown of Pocatello. Prior to joining EdNews, she taught English at Century High and was a reporter for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. She has won state and regional journalism awards, and her work has appeared in newspapers throughout the West. Flandro has a bachelor’s degree in print journalism and Spanish from the University of Montana, and a master’s degree in English from Idaho State University. You can email her at [email protected] or call or text her at (208) 317-4287.

Get EdNews in your inbox

Weekly round up every Friday