Yesterday marked the beginning of the 82nd Texas legislative session. To welcome the new legislature, Queer Texas United organized a Homophobia and Transphobia Kills Die-In at the front gate of the Capitol Building in Austin. The purpose of the Die-In was to support anti-bullying legislation. The Texas Senate has introduced two bills with respect to bullying and cyberbullying for consideration this legislative session. Presently, there are two anti-bullying bills in the Senate and one in the House.
Roughly fifty people attended the die-in. On cue, we all fell to the ground while a litany of names were read aloud by organizers then repeated by participants. Afterward, Representative Joe Farias of San Antonio spoke about the effect of bullying on his own family. He recounted the horrible bullying his son experienced and how, upon approaching the school administration, he was met with reluctance and even denial instead of help with confronting the problem.
Rather profoundly, another demonstration was being held simultaneously in front of the Capitol Building. This demonstration was an anti-death penalty rally. Several participants of that demonstration joined in with the die-in participants. Signs reading “Stop the Executions” mingled with signs reading “Homophobia Kills, Transphobia Kills.” Bullying, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and lethal injection all have the same tragic end; life ceases.
At approximately 6:18 p.m. organizers for the execution rally announced that the prisoner who was to be executed had received a stay. One woman screamed, “We got a stay!” Perhaps somewhere out in this world a bullied youth received a stay, too.
Overview of introduced Texas Anti-Bullying Legislation:
Senate Bill 245, filed by Senator Wendy Davis of Fort Worth, would amend the Texas Education Code to not only require policy and program development along with staff and parent training for the prevention and reporting of bullying, but also amend the current definition of bullying to include cyberbullying. Further, S.B. 245 would require that a student who engages in bullying, at the request of a person with authority to act on behalf of a bullied student, to be transferred to another classroom or campus. Previously, students victimized by bullying were forced to transfer to a new school or classroom themselves which clearly punished the victim rather than the offender. House Bill 224, field by Representative Mark Strama, is markedly similar to Senate Bill 245.
Senate Bill 205, filed by Senator John Whitmire of Houston, would require school districts to develop a policy prohibiting bullying, cyberbullying, harassment, and intimidation. The current text of S.B. 205 does not provide for specific consequences for students who engage in bullying, but instead requires that the district develop a program for remedial action, including counseling for the bully and a referral to appropriate services or to the appropriate county or district attorney.
What you can do in Texas to get involved:
- Join Queer Texas United on Facebook.
- Sign up for Equality Texas’ Lobby Day scheduled for March 7th.
- Contact your Representative to support anti-bullying legislation.
- Contact your Senator to support anti-bullying legislation.
- Follow GetEQUAL Texas on Facebook.
- Find your local Stonewall Democrats Chapter and volunteer (they will be holding a lobby day as well!).
- HIT THE STREETS!