The Judiciary (II) Committee of the North Carolina Senate heard the School Violence Prevention Act yesterday, Tuesday, July 31, 2007. Although the bill passed it did so without the listing of enumerated categories that would have protected students on the basis of sexual orientation and gender-identity, among others such as race, religion, ethnicity and gender.
The Act (HB 1366) passed the North Carolina House of Representatives on May 24, 2007, by a vote of 73-46. A vote in that debate, to strip the enumerated categories, came to a tie and was defeated with Speaker of the House Joe Hackney voted to keep the categories.
The stripped, powerless, mean-nothing School Violence Prevention Act is up for its Second Reading in the North Carolina Senate today.
I’ll be recording the debate (if there is any) and giving an update on what happens to the bill later today.
Personal Commentary: When I was perusing the General Assembly website today, in order to find out what had become of the School Violence Prevention Act, I went to check the various versions of the bill and to see if any changes had been made. I was absolutely floored – almost to the point of needing to retire to my bedroom and cry – when I realized that the enumerated categories had been stripped from the bill.
Back during the House debate on May 24th, the bill’s sponsor, Representative Rick Glazier gave some awesome reasons on why we need this bill and the enumerated categories:
“I think there are some very major reasons why the amendment [to strip the categories] should be defeated. Rep. Stam pioints to the fact that the bill states specifically that the categories are only part of the bill. We know from the data from this state and nation that there are some kids more vulnerable than others. We know that from political pressure or ideological pressure that those are the kids who are not fully protected by districts or schools.”
Rep. Glazier then proceeded to tell the story of students who had been victims of extreme bullying, including one instance of anti-gay bullying.
“We don’t have the option or the choice to discount those any more,” Glazier said, “Every child in every school is precious and we cannot abdicate our responsibility because we are afraid of a word or phrase.”
Glazier also told a short story of an intern from NC State University who was dealing with the issue of the LGBT Center at NC State working for Representative Leubke and how that student said, “I can’t walk a mile in their shoes, but I can make that mile walk a bit easier.”
Representative Earline Parmon of Forsyth County went further and gave an even better reason why the enumerated categories are needed. Not only do students need the enumerated categories to protect them, but teachers, faculty and staff need the categories to tell them exactly what will not be tolerated in schools:
I stand to oppose this amendment [to strip out the categories]. You think I would normally just do this. I am opposing this amendment because the bill must carry strong language that we must provide a safe environment for all our children. I have years of experience as an administrator in public education. I can tell you that because of our own biases I had to discipline teachers because homosexual children were being bullied and teachers didn’t speak up and when I asked one teacher why she did nothing, the teacher said she thought it would help make a man out of them. We must be specific and send a strong message to those with these biases. I don’t support protecting a gay lifestyle but this bill isn’t about that. It is about protecting our children and telling the adults we hold responsible for their protection that these children are vulnerable. We must send a strong message. We must have a safe environment. We must be specific about it. I ask you to oppose this amendment [to strip out the enumerated categories].”
And why is a bill that says “No Bullying” simply not enough? A good example is the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Board of Education; according to some of its members, bullying of gay students is just fine.
I guess the only hope we have now is that the bill gets delayed and gets the categories added back in through amendment.
This week certainly has not been a good week for the General Assembly, at least in my eyes. First I found out they honored a doctor who would like nothing more than to electrocute me until the gay goes away and now I found out that the one thing that could have protected LGBT students the state over now means absolutely nothing.
Just another day living in North Carolina.
Plus… I think it is really crappy that Senator Julia Boseman, our only openly gay state representative, stood up today to support a resolution acknowledging the horrible racist history of our state (and, in particular, the 1898 race riots of Wilmington, NC), but that the Senate is in no way going to support people like her, especially children and youth. Really crappy.