Knox County Schools' district harassment policies will stay as they are currently written.

The Board of Education voted Wednesday not to change the policies related to staff and student harassment after hearing from LGBT community members who were concerned the changes could weaken protections.

The proposed change was to remove language like "actual or perceived gender" and "sexual orientation" and replace them with the word "sex" in the school district's harassment policy for employees and students.

"There was a huge sigh of relief," Knox County Council PTA President Barry Myers said. "For these students to now feel that they no longer have to worry that they're not going to be protected."

MORE: Students protest proposed changes to LGBTQ harassment policy

During Wednesday's meeting, board member Mike McMillan introduced a substitute motion to keep the harassment policies the same. The board vote 6-2 not to change the employee policy, and 6-2 not to change the student policy.

But the vote wasn't without controversy. Myers and nearly 30 people rallied before Wednesday's meeting outside the City-County building.

"We hope that our school board is listening to the community," attorney Michael Davis said.

Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero also voiced her concerns about the proposed policy change, saying she feared removing the existing language would send the message that Knoxvillle is not a welcoming city for everyone, even if that was not what was intended.

And intentions are important to board member Tony Norman.

"We didn't intend to, in any way, make somebody vulnerable," Norman said.

Norman spoke up during the meeting, defending the intentions of the board.

"Sometimes in the public forums it was like we're the careless, crude, you know, insensitive body of politicians that didn't understand," Norman said.

Norman said the board was always on the students and staff's side.

"I hope that we've made some people happy and comfortable, and get across the message that we really are concerned with their well being all the time," he said.
Norman said he thinks eventually they'll add sex to the policy, but keep the other language as well.