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John Myers, Director of Operations and Programs
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The Real or Perceived Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered Student Protection Project
http://365Gay.com, June 11, 2003
Win Loss For Gay Students
by Beth Shapiro, http://365Gay.com Newscenter
New York City - The New York State Assembly has approved legislation to combat bullying in the state's public schools but a similar measure in Louisiana was pulled by its sponsor when lawmakers removed protections for gay students.
The New York bill passed the Democratic controlled Assembly 138-8 and now moves to the Republican controlled Senate where its fate is less certain.
"Schools need to be safe, harassment-free zones where kids can learn and reach their full potential. With this vote, the Assembly has reaffirmed its strong support for safe schools," said Alan Van Capelle, Executive Director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, the state's lesbian and gay civil rights and political advocacy organization.
All 8 dissenting votes were cast by Republicans. During debate on the bill, Assemblymember Daniel Hooker (R- Sharon Springs) assailed the bill's provisions protecting gay and lesbian students. Hooker told the chamber that the bill would "sacrifice our children's innocence," and would make children less able to resist molestation.
Both of the Assembly's two openly lesbian/gay Assemblymembers, Deborah Glick (D-Manhattan) and Daniel O'Donnell (D-Manhattan) were quick to rebuff Hooker. In some of his first words on the floor of the Assembly since assuming office this year, Assemblymember O'Donnell spoke about the intimidation and bigotry kids face in school and said, "It's not easy being gay. It's not a path any of us would choose to walk." Addressing Hooker's specific assertions, O'Donnell said, "I've been silent for six months now. No more! You keep your homophobia out of this room and out of this building."
In Baton Rouge, a bill aimed at curbing schoolyard bullying was derailed in the Louisiana House after its author objected to the removal of language that sought to protect gay and lesbian students from harassment.
At the request of Rep. Cedric Richmond, (D-New Orleans), House Bill 1482 was returned to the calendar without a vote after other lawmakers stripped reporting requirements and language that banned harassment on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.
Lesbian and gay students, and those perceived to be lesbian or gay, are also the victims of severe and widespread discrimination and harassment. A report prepared by the Massachusetts Governor's Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth found that 97% of high school students report regularly hearing homophobic remarks. In two-thirds of all cases when a student is verbally or physically harassed in school, no teacher of administrator intervened. And, most alarmingly, of all these incidents of discrimination and harassment, youth reported that one third came not from other students, but from teachers and staff.
Nine states and the District of Columbia have passed laws that provide
anti-bullying protections for students.
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