Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Day 99: Trans Marriage, Bullies and More Bullies

Today is the 99th day of the 82nd regular session of the Texas Legislature. The House reconvenes at 9:00 am, the Senate at 11:00.

SB 723 is still on the "intent calendar" in the Senate. The bill would remove a court-ordered change of "sex" from the list of documents that can be used to prove identity for obtaining a marriage license and would effectively void all marriages between a transgender person and a person of the opposite sex (Read LQ's explanation of why). The Senate will continue to work on the current intent calendar at least for today and tomorrow (they have a "local and uncontested calendar" of noncontroversial bills that is scheduled to be considered on Thursday). There were 63 bills originally on the intent calendar and the Senate dealt with only 9 of them yesterday. Keep calling Senators and telling them to "oppose SB 723."

SB 736 by Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa (D-McAllen) will be heard in the Senate Education Committee this morning at 9:00 am. SB 736 is the companion bill to HB 944 by Rep. Dawnna Dukes (D-Austin) and its text is identical. From LQ's analysis of HB 944:
"[The bill] would require Local School Health Advisory Councils to annually issue a report containing recommendations on their school district's "policies, programs, and resources on dating violence, bullying, and sexual harassment". It would also allow school boards to appoint representatives from local domestic violence programs to their Advisory Council...

There is nothing in the current code that would preclude a counsel from making recommendations on its school's approach to dating violence, bullying and sexual harassment, nor is there anything currently stopping local school districts from appointing experts on domestic violence intervention to the council. So [the bills do] not dramatically change the current situation, nor would [they] require local school districts to do anything to address the torturous conditions that so many queer kids endure in public schools."
Nevertheless, SB 736 and HB 944 are a step in the right direction.

SB 205 by Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston) was voted out of the Senate Education Committee yesterday (the same committee that will hear HB 944 today). Currently school districts must create student codes of conduct which are designed, in part, to discourage bullying. Whitmire's bill specifies requirements for the anti-bullying portions of those codes, while still allowing a great deal of leeway for the district (read LQ's original review of SB 205).

Whitmire offered a "committee substitute" to SB 205. The substitute made very few changes to the original bill: it removed a protection from criminal prosecution for teachers who reported bullying, and it clarified that school districts are to create "policies and procedures" not just policies. The teacher protections were removed due to concerns that they would allow teachers to ignore bullying and harassment for months and then report it after things got out of control and avoid prosecution for neglecting to report abuse of a minor. SB 205 is similar to portions of HB 1942, the House "super bully bill" voted out of committee last week. It does not contain any recognition of sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.

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