Friday, November 19, 2010

Brody's Notes... Texas School Board Adopts Anti-Bullying Policy- Includes Protections For LGBT Students

By Brody Levesque (Washington DC) NOV 19 | In a unanimous vote last night, the Dallas Independent School District school board, approved a new an anti-bullying policy that for the first time included protections for LGBTQ students. The vote came after numerous speakers including current DISD students spoke in favour of the policy and urged the members of the school board to pass it.
Dallas area LGBTQ activists and Equality Rights groups praised the policy's language and offered that it was a bold, pioneering move for a Texas school district.
"It is not only the right thing to do, it is visionary," said CeCe Cox, the executive director of Resource Center Dallas.
The Dallas Morning News quoted a former student, William Morbant, who is gay and attended Booker T. Washington High School for the Visual and Performing Arts.
"The memory I will have of going to DISD schools is being harassed," said Morbant, who said he twice attempted to commit suicide because of bullying. Had the new policy existed when he was a student, he said, "I believe I would have had a better growing-up experience in school. I wouldn't have to go take 20 pain pills to get rid of the pain."
Morning News staff writer Matthew Haag reported that the Dallas school district initially  considered implementing a anti-bullying policy after the recent outbreak of suicides by Gay teenagers and others who had been bullied in schools nationwide. The leaders in Dallas' LGBTQ community criticised the board's first proposal, objecting that it was too broad and did not included language protecting LGBTQ students specifically.
According to The Morning News Article:
The policy approved Thursday night is lengthy, detailed and takes effect immediately. The district's definition of bullying ranges from hitting, intimidation and flashing gang signs to making fun of students because of their national origin, family background, political beliefs and other reasons. It also includes provisions about cyberbullying and cyberstalking.
"We have tried to be as inclusive as we can," said trustee Lew Blackburn, who helped draft the policy. "Schools should be one of the places we call a safe haven for kids."
School Board member Bernadette Nutall apologised to Morbant and other students in the audience who said they had suffered during the time period that there wasn't an anti-bullying policy in place in the district.  "I apologize we didn't act on this faster," Nutall said. 
When the new policy takes effect, possible punishment for those students who bully could range from counseling to expulsion. The new guidelines call for assessment to be done on a case by case basis.