Tell me if any of this language sounds familiar. From the “License to Bully” bill currently under consideration in Tennessee:
This bill specifies that such task forces, programs, and other initiatives may not include materials or training that explicitly or implicitly promote a political agenda, make the characteristics of the victim the focus rather than the conduct of the person engaged in harassment, intimidation, or bullying, or teach or suggest that certain beliefs or viewpoints are discriminatory when an act or practice based on such belief or viewpoint is not a discriminatory practice under present human rights law.
I’m sorry to say that the key ideas expressed here are echoed in comments made by Bill Fox and other members in their defense of the first action* by the new Loudoun County School Board.
Look folks. . .we are not a civil rights advocacy group.
..it is not the job of the school board to lobby the state to make legislative changes on controversial social issues.
..we don’t think this is a School Board issue.
..not simply single out members of specific groups for protection.
But if you are trying to convince me that the proper role of school board is in part to be a LGBT activist group, then you have reached a dead end.
[The Legislative Program] is NOT for making a statement or to become agents of social change..
The key ideas here are precisely that anti-bullying policy should not be concerned with the specific characteristics of those targeted for bullying, that to respond to such targeting is promoting a political advocacy agenda, and that any challenge to the limitations of “present human rights law” in Virginia is not the proper purview of the School Board.
Meanwhile, Tennessee has lost another precious young person to anti-gay bullying. Phillip Parker, 14, took his own life this week. He was constantly bullied for being gay.
Phillip’s family said they reported their concerns over their son’s bullying to Gordonsville High School on multiple occasions, but the bullying by a group of students just got worse.
The following are the recommendations from GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) for addressing anti-LGBT harassment and bullying:
1. Revise district policy to explicitly prohibit student discrimination, harassment, bullying, and intimidation based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. The school district must establish an enumerated policy for unwelcomed conduct that focuses on sex, race, ethnicity, religious belief, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. An enumerated policy is crucial to ensure that anti-bullying policies are effective for all students.
2. Require staff trainings to enable school staff to identify and address anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying, and harassment effectively and in a timely manner.
3. Support student efforts to address anti-LGBT bullying and harassment on campus, such as the formation of a Gay-Straight Alliance or participation in events such as the National Day of Silence and Ally Week.
4. Institute age-appropriate, inclusive curricula to help students understand and respect difference within the school community and society as a whole.
Under the proposed “License to Bully” law, none of these recommendations would be legal. Materials and training that would help students understand and respect gender and sexuality differences? That would “promote a political agenda” of accepting such differences as part of the human condition. Support student initiatives like the National Day of Silence? That might suggest that certain beliefs and viewpoints are discriminatory. Acknowledge that LGBT students are targeted because they are LGBT? That would make the focus the characteristics of the victim. Even suicide prevention resources like The Trevor Project would be banned.
One gets the impression from the remarks made by Loudoun County School Board members that they would dismiss GLSEN’s recommendations, which are derived from that organization’s considerable advocacy experience, exactly because they are derived from advocacy experience. It’s an odd bit of circular reasoning. In any case, any similarity, however unwitting, to the execrable agenda we are witnessing unfold in Tennessee is something they can’t run away from fast enough – if they have any sense.
School Board members: I’m not impressed by language about “civil rights advocacy,” “activist groups,” political “statements,” or “controversial social issues.” It’s your job to make policy that protects the kids. Period. Anything that presents an obstacle to such policy is a school board issue, and it’s the job of the school board to get rid of it. Anyone who says otherwise needs to be told in no uncertain terms to pound sand. No excuses.
*Regarding the Virginia Human Rights Act:
“I move to amend the Board’s previously adopted Legislative Program by removing the recommendation to expand the protected classifications contained in the Virginia Human Rights Act, Code of Virginia §2.2-3900 and §2.2-3901, to include gender orientation and gender identity and to further amend the Code of Virginia §22.1-78 to allow local school boards to similarly expand the protected classifications contained in local school board policies and regulations and that Staff be directed to make such other changes to the Legislative Program as to conform to the Program language of this motion.”