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D.C. council, LGBT groups consider bullying bill

November 24, 2010 - 03:30 PM
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Vince Gray (Photo: Jay Westcott)

On Monday, the D.C. Council will consider a new bill to fight bullying in District schools. The "Bullying Prevention Act of 2010" [PDF] would develop policies for "prohibiting bullying, harassment, and intimidation in the District of Columbia Public Schools, including any "intentional conduct, including verbal, physical or written conduct, or an intentional electronic communication" that "creates a hostile environment" for a student.

The bill specifically calls out any bullying based on protected classes under the D.C. Human Rights Act, including "actual or perceived race, national origin, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, ancestry, physical attributes, socioeconomic status, familial status, or physical or mental disability."With national action coalescing against the bullying of gay and transgender adolescents, the "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" portion of that list are garnering increased attention. LGBT groups are particularly encouraged by the legislation, but they still have a couple of suggestions for improvement.

The DC Trans Coalition, in its proposed testimony before the council, claims that the bill will "effectively protect trans students," a group the DCTC calls "among the most victimized and vulnerable youth populations in our nation." But while "A strong anti-bullying bill is a first step in part of a larger and very necessary effort to fully integrate trans students and interrupt the cycle of poverty at its root," the DCTC still has a couple of notes for the D.C. council. The group urges District lawmakers to "pair the bill with increased programming for educators and students encouraging sensitivity to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students, and inclusive curricula that discussed the accomplishments historical role of LGBT people."

The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) has also submitted comments in favor of the bill. But it also admits it could use some work. "Although the Harassment and Intimidation Prevention Act of 2010 is a strong bill, there are still ways to improve the legislation and enhance school safety in the District of Columbia," GLSEN submits. The bill's bullying definition "should enumerate 'ethnicity,'" GLSEN argues. It should "also cover students based on their association with others with the listed characteristics." GLSEN also wants D.C. to "make available to the public an aggregate report of incidents of bullying and harassment" cross-indexed by the "types of bullying occurring."

The D.C. council will hear testimony on the proposed legislation on Monday.


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