Overwhelming support shows bipartisan consensus to address school harassment
NEW YORK - GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, praises Gov. Beebe's signing today of a comprehensive anti-bullying bill that enumerates personal characteristics often targeted for bullying, including race, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity.
The bill, which also requires educator training, has overwhelming support from legislators of all parties and passed unanimously in the state Senate.
"We applaud Rep. Kathy Webb and Sen. David Johnson for introducing, and Gov. Beebe for signing into law, a bill that if implemented properly will make Arkansas classrooms safe for all students," said GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard. "Bullying is a public health crisis in the United States, and GLSEN praises Arkansas legislators for taking action that will make a crucial difference in the lives of students throughout Arkansas."
GLSEN research shows enumerated bullying policies are the most effective at addressing anti-LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) and bias-based bullying. Broad support for such policies in states like Arkansas has fueled optimism that the federal Safe Schools Improvement Act, introduced in the Senate and soon to be introduced in the House, also will become law.
"While we celebrate a historic victory for the youth of Arkansas, the somber reality is that youth in most states still do not have adequate protections from bias-based bullying. The near unanimous support for the Arkansas anti-bullying bill sends a strong message to Congress that political differences cannot and should not stand in the way of swift, comprehensive action to address bullying," said Byard.
Arkansas is the 11th state to pass an enumerated anti-bullying law. The 10 other states that have such laws are California, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Vermont and Washington..
GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. Established in 1990, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. GLSEN seeks to develop school climates where difference is valued for the positive contribution it makes to creating a more vibrant and diverse community. For information on GLSEN's research, educational resources, public policy advocacy, student organizing programs and educator training initiatives, visit www.glsen.org.