Safe Schools State(ment): February 2010
As the newest member of GLSEN's public policy team, I'm excited to present my first Safe Schools State(ment). Every month, I'll give you a brief rundown of all the progress and pitfalls we're seeing as we work to create policies at the state and local level to make schools safer for all students. It's only February, but already it's a busy year for safe schools legislation.
†††† †-Alison Gill, Public Policy Associate
Safe schools bills that protect LGBT students were offered in Mississippi in January. While they were quickly stripped of their protections or killed in committee, this is amazing progress nevertheless. A dedicated group of activists, the Mississippi Safe Schools Coalition, is working to educate lawmakers, work with the Mississippi Department of Education, and work toward passage of a law that protects all students. I have no doubt they'll succeed in time.
For the third time, the dangerous "Don't Say Gay" bill was reintroduced in the Tennessee House. Sponsored by Rep. Stacey Campfield, this bill would prevent all discussion of or materials relating to any sexual orientation except heterosexuality in schools. These sorts of laws endanger LGBT students by denying them access to resources in schools. Fortunately, due in part to the great local organizing of groups like the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition, the Tennessee Equality Project, and GLSENís own local networks and organizers like Conrad Honicker, this bill was killed in committee and hopefully will not return for at least another year.
While Washington already has anti-discrimination and anti-bullying laws that protect all (including LGBT) students, a new bill is working its way through the House that would provide even more protection. Studies authorized by the Washington State Legislature have demonstrated that the state's current anti-bullying laws have not reduced bullying and harassment as much as lawmakers had hoped. The proposed new law would require that districts adopt the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction's (OSPI) model policy and require districts to have a single point of contact regarding enforcement of the policy. We applaud the Washington Legislature for its continuing commitment to Washington students' safety.
January also saw the introduction of dozens of bills throughout the country relating to topics such as education and equality for LGBT students. To give just a few examples, we are tracking great bills that allow for comprehensive sex education (Arizona, Mississippi), seek to reduce drop-out rates (Hawaii, Washington), and begin suicide prevention programs in schools (Illinois, Kentucky). Other, more disappointing, bills seek to prevent dating violence but only for straight teenagers (South Carolina), prevent LGBT people from adopting children born to straight married parents (Arizona), assert the Tenth Amendment to avoid enforcing Federal laws on issues like hate crimes, schools or LGBT families (Missouri), and, of course, ban marriage equality (several states). In short, there's a lot going on out there! So look for our monthly Safe Schools State(ment) for everything you need to know about the exciting world of state legislation.