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Director of Equality Texas Defends Removal of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity from Anti-Bullying Bill

March 01, 2011 By: jaysays Category: Youth Issues

Anti-Bullying - Bullying Stops Here - well, almost...Texas has been spinning over a proposed “Anti-Bullying Bill” which was introduced in both the House and Senate.  The bill, which original provided for punishment of the bully rather than the victim and required the schools to report the type of bullying and “cause” of bullying (including sexual orientation and gender identity) only had a marginal chance of passing in a venue as conservative as Texas; however, it brought together many advocacy organizations and the momentum of LGBT activists was growing at an astounding rate.  With the bill we found that LGBT groups were no longer lobbying alone, but instead had the support of educators and student organizations to finally provide a symbol of hope to victims of bullying and perhaps, just perhaps, reduce the epidemic of youth suicides.

Sadly, the LGBT powers that be decided that the reporting requirement would kill the bill because of the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity.  It’s important to note that neither classification was a “protected class” under the proposed legislation, but instead just a reporting requirement – i.e. check the box if the student was bullied because of actual or perceived sexual orientation.

While the bill will still be effective in punishing the bullies rather than the victims, we lose critical information by striping out the reporting provisions.  Thus, Asher Brown’s death would no longer be reported for what it truly was, but instead, just another youth suicide without confronting causation or motive.

The redrafted bill, supported by Equality Texas, also serves as a reminder that those LGBT folks in Texas just can’t win, so why bother trying.  Chuck Smith, Director of Equality Texas, stated, “At the end of the day, the reporting part is not important compared to the rest of the guts of the bill.”  On Facebook, he went on to say, “[The redrafted legislation] contains a boatload of anti-bullying policy that doesn’t exist in TX code and needs to.”  While I recognize that fact, Mr. Smith has failed to address the real issue.  Removing the reporting requirement sends a clear message to our community: you are still less than and you must accept that.

This is a tragic turn of events for any possibility of an LGBT victory in Texas – one small victory would have been enough to cause the crowds to scream, “Yes we can” instead of “Well, no reason to try because we can’t.”

Even though we know the road is long and the battles will take their toll, we should not submit.  But that is what we have done here.  We have submitted.  We find ourselves again waving the white flag and prostrating ourselves before “The Man.”

So what happens if the bill passes without the reporting requirement?  We lose our allies in the fight.  Teacher groups and student organizations that are not specifically advocating for LGBT issues will no longer be driven with the same passion that has driven this legislation thus far.  Yet again, the LGBT will stand alone.

This is a sad day for Texas.  It is the day that those advocating for us, sold us out.

Glee’s Chris Colfer wins Golden Globe and Delivers Anti-Bullying Message

January 16, 2011 By: jaysays Category: Featured, Quick Bits

I’m an admitted Gleek, in spite of the ups and downs with the show.  I’m thrilled to see more positive messages than we’ve seen from say, “Queer as Folk.”   Tonight, Chris Colfer [Kurt], won a Golden Globe.  His short acceptance speech was dedicated in part to “All the amazing kids… who are constantly told ‘no’ by the people in their environments, by bullies at school, that they can’t be who they are or have what they want because of who they are, well, screw that kids.”

Here’s the clip:

82nd Texas Legislative Session Welcomed with Anti-Bullying Demonstration

January 12, 2011 By: jaysays Category: Featured, Youth Issues

Queer Texas United Anti-Bully "Die In" - Austin, Texas, January 11, 2011

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: