Saturday, March 01, 2008

Republicans kill school bullying bill

Just as I predicted to the Herald-Leader in January, the school bulling bill has died in the Kentucky Senate. Thank you Senator Scorsone for trying to force the issue in the Senate.

The House passes this bill every year, and every year the Senate kills it. So long as David Williams is president, nothing with the name “gay” on it will ever make it through the Senate.

I hope Kentuckians everywhere remember this in the next election. Republicans in the Senate don’t want our school children protected, or give educators the tools they need to address bullying problems with gay students. Gay and lesbian people makeup a large part of the Commonwealth’s population, and it would make things much easier for the next generation if students know calling someone names or bullying them because of their perceived sexual orientation isn’t acceptable; teaching tolerance and diversity at an early age could also reduce future hate crimes.

Kentuckians across the Commonwealth should be ashamed of our elected Republican leaders.

The Courier-Journal reports:

Senate Republicans yesterday beat back an effort by Democrats to force the so-called "bully bill" from the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The Democrats, led by Sen. Ernesto Scorsone of Lexington, failed on a party-line 15-20 vote to win approval of a discharge petition to take the bill from the committee and push it a step closer to a vote on the Senate floor.

Senate Bill 12 would require school districts to develop plans to combat bullying, report instances of it to the state Department of Education and identify bullying as a cause for suspension or expulsion of students.

Scorsone said the bill, first filed in the Senate in 2005, has never received a committee hearing. The measure has overwhelming support in the House, where it has passed four times.

"We want kids to learn to read. Well, a scared kid can't be taught to read very well. If a child is worried about going out at recess, they're not going to have any time to figure out a math problem," Scorsone said.

The first version of the bill defined classes of students to be protected under the bill, including gay and lesbian students. But those provisions were removed in later versions to make it more palatable to those who had concerns, said Sen. Julian Carroll, D-Frankfort, the main sponsor of the bill.

Senate Majority Leader Dan Kelly, R-Springfield, said Judiciary Committee Chairman Robert Stivers, who wasn't in Frankfort yesterday, has been working on amendments to the bill. But he stopped short of promising that Stivers, R-Manchester, would allow a vote in the committee.

Kelly said school districts already have the authority to create such bullying plans. He said he's concerned that the law would place a "bully" label on students that would follow them through their entire careers.


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