The Missouri legislature has allowed an anti-bullying bill (HB 134) to die, and its Republican sponsor is blaming her gay colleagues for killing it. For all of the effective anti-bullying measures Rep. Sue Allen’s bill included, it specifically banned the creation of enumerated lists of identities to protect, such as sexual orientation and gender identity. Enumerating protections has helped guarantee that anti-LGBT bullying does not go unreported, but according to Allen, they’re too “partisan”:
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. […]
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.
The “they” Allen refers to are openly gay lawmakers Sen. Jolie Justus (D) and Rep. Mike Colona (D), who Allen encourages her supporters to contact and blame for the bill’s failure.
Allen clearly does not understand the purpose and function of enumerating groups, calling it “discriminatory” to specify some groups for students and not others. Speaking with the Riverfront Times, she added, “Why are we always segregating?” Of course, enumerating groups does nothing of the sort; instead, it ensures that groups known to be targeted for bullying are specifically listed so that such harassment can be more easily identified. No student is excluded from a bullying policy because they don’t belong to one of the enumerated groups; instead, the groups serve to raise awareness about forms of bullying that are already problematic.
It would also be different if Allen’s bill simply did not address enumerate groups, but it specifically bans them. The only purpose for such a limitation is to ensure protections for the LGBT community are never extended. This is particularly problematic given the incredibly high rates of anti-LGBT bullying that take place in Missouri. According to GLSEN’s 2011 National School Climate Survey, 94 percent of Missouri students regularly hear homophobic language like “fag” and “dyke” at school, and 83 percent of LGBT students have experience harassment or assault for their sexual orientation. These are rates far higher than national averages.
With a bullying epidemic like that, Allen should better appreciate that enumerating protections to groups like LGBT students would actually better protect all students. Instead, she’s encouraging people to bully her gay colleagues for wanting to fix her problematic bill.