Birmingham Board of Education Enacts LGBT-Inclusive Anti-Bullying Policy

Great news from Alabama! Last week, Birmingham's Board of Education passed two critical pieces of legislation affecting city schools. The first policy--the most comprehensive anti-bullying policy in the state of Alabama--includes enumerated categories specifically protecting students against bullying based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression. The second policy protects LGBT teachers from harassment as well.

The policies were passed largely due to the efforts of Board Member Howard Bayless, the first openly gay man in Alabama to hold an elected position and the first openly gay school board member. Bayless recalls the tireless efforts he put into ensuring that the bills would be passed:

I first gathered anti-bullying policies from multiple school districts that I felt encompassed what we needed in our policy, and then drafted a policy for Birmingham schools. I then began the long process of having conversation with each board member about why this was important not just as a board policy but also about why it was the right thing to do. I told them my own story of growing up in Birmingham City Schools and being harassed and bullied–and how I carried that pain with me still today. I also helped them to understand how that impacted me and my education. As part of a broader strategic planning process, my fellow board members all agreed that we wanted safer school environments for ALL our children.

This is especially good news, considering the alarmingly high rates of anti-LGBT bullying in schools throughout the South. According to data from GLSEN's 2007 National School Climate Survey, students in the South:

  • heard biased remarks more frequently and experienced higher levels of victimization in relation to sexual orientation than students in other regions
  • were less likely than all other students to report that staff frequently intervened when hearing homophobic remarks
  • reported higher levels of other forms of victimization--because of their race, sex, and religion--than students in other regions

We hope that Birmingham's new comprehensive anti-bullying policy serves as a model to school boards across the South, and the entire country, to protect the safety and well-being of ALL their students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.

Thanks to Howard Bayless and the Birmingham Board of Education, and keep up the good work!