Sunday, October 10, 2010

Anti-Bullying Legislation in Texas Part I

The recent rash of suicides of queer youth, including the death of 13 year old Texas Student Asher Brown, has caused many in the queer community to call for anti-bullying legislation. What some people may not realize is that this is not a new idea.

Last session (2009) Rep. Mark Strama (Travis County) introduced a fairly comprehensive bill that would have given school administrators new tools to fight bullying in public schools. HB 1323 would have allowed School administrators to address bullying that took place off campus, so long as it affected the education environment, required schools to notify both the parents of victims of bullying and the parents of the bully, allowed administrators to transfer bullies to other schools or classrooms (currently the victim is transferred), and would have created a statewide reporting requirement, allowing for better tracking and understanding of bullying. All pretty common sense steps to help administrators reduce bullying. So why didn't it pass?

There wasn't much opposition.

The ACLU spoke against it in committee, and distributed a flier to lawmakers that said, in part - "“Shielding children from getting snubbed or being called names undermines children's ability to develop the coping mechanisms to be able to fend for themselves”. In other words 'bullying, harassment, terror are just parts of growing up' (which is why I stopped renewing my ACLU membership).

The "Freemarket Association", a right-wing, no-government organization that calls itself a "Think Tank" and is associated with the Liberty Institute (the organization that wrote the Chisum/Staples brief against the Dallas Gay Divorce Case), also registered their opposition, but couldn't be bothered to testify against it.

On the other hand the legislation was supported by, among others: the Texas State Teachers Association, the Association of Texas Professional Educators, the Texas Network of Youth Services, and the National Association of Social Workers - Texas Chapter.

In the end not one member of the 11 member House Public Education Committee voted against it.

So, if the bill had overwhelming support, why didn't it become law? Read Part II to find out.

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