An anti-bullying bill at the Missouri legislature has died -- and Representative Sue Allen, the sponsor of the proposal, is now casting blame on openly gay lawmakers.
At the center of the fight is a debate around specified protections for LGBT students, which Allen opposes. "These are people who think everything is about that issue," Allen, a Republican, tells Daily RFT, referring to LGBT issues. "Because they want sexual orientation added, they are keeping all children from being protected."
LGBT advocates and lawmakers -- who want schools to have the opportunity to outline protections for gay students in their policies -- see it very differently and argue that Allen's stubbornness on this is offensive and backwards.
House Bill 134, Allen's proposal, would mandate that every district adopt an anti-bullying policy and would establish some required components, including a statement prohibiting bullying, a requirement for employees to report bullying, a procedure for reporting and investigating accusations -- and more.
On the face of it, the proposal seems fairly non-controversial, but one part of the bill has, it seems, derailed the whole thing:
Policies shall treat all students equally and shall not contain specific lists of protected classes of students who are to receive special treatment.
Critics of the proposal say this is effectively a blanket ban on any policies specifying protections for LGBT students, who, studies show, frequently face bullying in Missouri schools.
Specifications in school policies, formally known as "enumerated categories," are proven to help reduce LGBT discrimination, advocates say.
"She's blocking her own legislation to make a point about not protecting LGBT kids," State Senator Jolie Justus, a Kansas City Democrat, who is openly gay, tells Daily RFT.
Allen, however, blames Justus -- and mentiones Rep. Mike Colona, who is also openly gay -- in a recent newsletter lamenting the death of her bill.
I typically try to keep partisanship out of my message, but this is an issue for the Democrats who wish for certain students (GLBT -gay, lesbian, bisexual, & transgender) to be "enumerated" within school policies.
Our Republican majority did pass two versions of HB 134 three times in the House in spite of the more liberal House members. However, a Kansas City Senator (Senator Justus) threatened to filibuster all bills in the Senate which contained the language of HB 134, so our students lose again.
What "they" don't seem to understand is that any stronger policies help ALL students, even those they would have categorized.
So....it seems some people care more about arguing points to make some students more protected when what they've really done is to NO better protect ANY student.
Justus points out that she and other opponents of the bill simply want local school districts to have the option of specifying LGBT students in their policies and that the bill as written, forbids them.
"The state...should leave it up to local school boards," Justus says.
And these kinds of enumerations for LGBT students can be important, she adds.
"Sometimes, educators and administrators have never dealt with [bullying of LGBT students]," she says. "Studies show enumerated categories help...so they can make important decisions about how to proceed."
She adds of Allen's newsletter, "She specifically targeted...two openly gay legislators, because we wanted to protect local control.... To me, that's bullying in its own right."
Continue for our interview with Rep. Sue Allen.
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