School staffer fights for partner bens
by Angela Thomas
Nov 21, 2013 | 639 views | 0 0 comments | 24 24 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Central Bucks County School District is facing pressure to grant spousal benefits for same-sex partners of employees.

Last month, a Central Bucks employee asked the district’s human-resources department for a request to enroll her same-sex spouse on her health-insurance plan.

The couple, who was legally married in Delaware, was denied spousal benefits by the school board, a committee of which recommended the board wait to extend such benefits until Pennsylvania legalizes same-sex marriage. According to school-board president Stephen Corr, the district is currently in arbitration with the employee.

The district offers two health insurance plans — an HMO through Aetna and a PPO through Amerihealth. Aetna offers coverage for legal spouses while Amerihealth only offers benefits for spouses of the opposite sex.

During a Nov. 12 meeting to debate the subject, 13 individuals, including students, spoke in support of providing same-sex benefits to their teachers and staff of the district.

Bucks County Human Relations Councilmember Marlene Pray was present at the Nov. 12 meeting and spoke in support of the employee. Pray said she is not yet sure what action the BCHRC could take on the issue. She noted, however, that the Council has in the past made statements to urge nondiscrimination at local schools.

Pray addressed the issue at a Nov. 13 meeting of the Human Resource Committee of the district’s board.

The day before, about 50 people turned out before the board to support equal rights for LGBT district employees.

“We presented them with several pieces of information as to why we should be offering same-sex spousal benefits and domestic-partnership benefits in the school district,” she said.

Pray said it could be illegal for the school board to deny benefits due to the fact that four of the schools in the district are located in Doylestown Borough, which adopted an LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination law in 2010.

“If they just changed the policy, obviously the arbitration would go away,” she said.

Pray said for the most part, it was the students who rallied in support for their LGBT teachers.

“Most of the effort is led by the students who understandably are very upset that their teachers are not receiving fair treatment,” she said. “Students are planning actions and meeting to help change this and show support for their teachers. They are definitely engaged on this and not sitting.”

Pray said she hopes the board listens to the students and the many other supporters.

“They have a reputation of not being sensitive of the community’s concerns. My hope is that they do the right thing. This is a real opportunity for them to build bridges. It is not a controversial issue — this is about fair and equal treatment of our teachers and staff.”

The school board did not respond to requests for comment.

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