California Assemblyman Tom Ammiano is preparing to introduce a new anti-bullying bill modeled on New Jersey’s recently enacted — and widely praised — measure that advocates hope will add oversight and accountability to the existing bullying laws. In an interview with me yesterday Equality California’s Geoff Kors — who is helping draft the bill — said that while the state already provides a wide range of protections to LGBT people, the new measure would “put some teeth into the existing prohibition on bullying.” “It’s one thing to make it illegal to bully students, it’s another to actually put some teeth in the law,” he added.
“All schools personnel will be required to report instances of abuse,” and provide that information to the Superintendent.” Students will also have someone they could talk to within each school and will be able to call an 800 number to report harassment. The schools and the state will also save money, Kors argued, since reducing bullying will eliminate harassment lawsuits against school districts and keep kids in school.
The group is also pursuing a separate measure, The Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful (FAIR) Education Act, which would require schools to add LGBT-related content to the curriculum. Advocates hope that a more inclusive and age-appropriate pedagogy will “aid in the personal growth and well-being of gay and gender-non-conforming students, while at the same time fostering collaboration and helping to create a safer campus environment for all students, gay and straight.” “There is so much data that shows that when curriculum and education programs are inclusive of LGBT people, the bullying is reduced dramatically,” Kors said.
He predicted that the chances of both bills passing are “very good,” and said that the text of the anti-bullying measure should be available within two to three weeks. Equality California began working on a stronger anti-bullying bill before New Jersey passed its measure last month, but had been “waiting for a governor who might sign a bill.” Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger had vetoed several education and safe school bills, “saying that each local school district should deal with it.”