SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — In a 4-3 vote, the Springfield Public Schools Board of Education voted to change the language in its board policy manual.

The discrimination policy when it comes to who qualifies for free and reduced lunches, will now include the words “gender identity and sexual orientation.” 

The vote is an effort to protect $7 million in funding from the US Department of Agriculture which is used for free and reduced lunches. 

The change in language sparked discussion between board members on both sides of the argument at Tuesday’s meeting. 

“This case is about food stamps and nutrition education,” said Danielle Kincaid, President of the SPS school board. “Not bathrooms, sports teams, free speech or religious exercise.’ 

The vote was tabled at October’s board meeting and was brought up again Tuesday night.  

The change in language stems from regulations set in place by the U.S. Department of Agriculture which requires the anti-discrimination policy to include the words “gender identity and sexual orientation” for the school to continue receiving funding for free and reduced lunch. 

Some board members were against the policy change.

“The USDA themself had specifically indicated that funds would not be withheld,” said Board Member Steve Makoski. “It’s just that they would like to see us all follow this, and that’s the extent of it. 

Others supported the change.

“So whether or not you agree that $7 billion is at risk or not,” said Board Member Judy Brunner. “Putting us in a position where we would be out of compliance to me is not worth the risk.” 

Ultimately the change in policy passed, changing the language and complying with the USDA’S regulations.    

“By making a policy that’s in compliance does not mean that we’re now going to have discussions with kids about their sexual orientations or have anything to do with restrooms or or surgeries or medications or anything else,” said Board Member Dr. Shurita Thomas-Tate. “They’re completely separate issues. They have nothing to do with each other.”