Grand Divisions

Tennessee Equality Project seeks to advance and protect the civil rights of our State’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons and their families in each Grand Division.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Protection from Bullying (but not for LGBT kids)

HB 927 is the Dignity for All Students Act.  I helped write it.  I have a deeply personal reason for promoting it.  But there are people in the TNGA trying to push a TOOTHLESS, VAGUE bill to replace it with one that does NOTHING to protect ALL kids from bullying.

Question: Why would anyone have a problem with a bill to help stop bullying in school?

Answer: Because the Dignity for All Students Act includes sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression in the enumerated categories of kids that are most often bullied.

Apparently to SOME people, LGBT kids don’t warrant protections from bullying, so those people (who believe so strongly that have some sort of religious ‘right’ to bully LGBT kids) will not extend protections to them or any other vulnerable child.  No, THOSE people don’t want to define bullying…because they know they do it themselves.

Adults are supposed to set an example.  Our legislature has set an example that promotes bullying LGBT kids for YEARS.  Don’t Say Gay bills, Turn Away the Gays bill this year, the License to Bully bill…the example that these adults has set breeds bullying.  No wonder they don’t want to protect LGBT kids in school…that might mean that the next generation grows up without the prejudices and bile that drive these discriminatory bills.  Oh, the HORROR.  KIDS MIGHT LEARN TO TREAT PEOPLE WHO ARE DIFFERENT WITH RESPECT FOR THEIR COMMON HUMANITY!!!!! 

The Tennessee Department of Education issued a report confirming 5,478 acts of bullying took place during the 2012-2013 school year, and that number only includes the bullying that was actually reported. Over 5000 cases reported...and who knows how many went unreported?


5000 kids who were disturbed enough by bullying in their school environment that they needed an adult to intervene.  Let that sink in.

As a parent of a child with Asperger’s Syndrome, or High Functioning Autism as they now label it, my child's perspective on the world is vastly different from that of that of a non-autistic adult teacher.

If my child feels threatened or victimized, I certainly do not want some adult telling him his concerns do not matter and to deal with the situation on his own.  I want my son to trust that a teacher will intervene and protect him if he needs and asks for an adult's help.  Because ASKING FOR HELP IS WHAT WE HAVE TAUGHT HIM TO DO!  We have told him to find an adult if he or someone else is being bullied.

The sad thing?  He doesn't trust the adults to intervene.  Why should he?  He has been bullied, and seen kids get bullied, and nothing was done about it. 

You know what?  I don’t trust all adults to intervene either.  We have seen it happen over and over in Tennessee where a school has failed to protect an LGBT student from bullying.  We have seen it end in suicide more than once. 

Remember Jacob Rogers of Cheatham County and Phillip Parker of Gordonsville?  Google them.  Just Google them. 

Google this too “LGBT suicide Tennessee” and tell me that gay kids don’t need protection from bullies.  Then tell me that schools should be allowed to decide what defines bullying and decide how to address bullying in any way they want to handle it.  That’s what Rep. Mark White of Memphis thinks should happen.  Because, obviously, that has worked SO WELL IN THE PAST!!!

Because Rep. White thinks the adults should determine when the bullying is “bad”, not the victim.  Because if the adults in charge don’t care about LGBT kids getting bullied, then they shouldn't have to protect them.


ALL children deserve a safe educational environment.  Period.   Parent should be able to trust that the adults, in whose charge they leave their kids every morning, are going to protect them from harassment and intimidation that interferes with their learning environment without imposing a subjective view of how "bad" it may be from an adult perspective. 

They should be able to trust that the adults who are in charge are being consistent and following set guidelines for their safety. 

Clear consistent guidelines are needed across the state.  Our bill provides that consistency across the state where Rep. White’s ambiguous bill (HB 2122) does not.  We saw it in committee last year when lawmakers looked back fondly on bullying and being bullied in school...leaving the definition of bullying up to adults in charge means subjective interpretation of what is harmful to the victim, based not on the victims perspective, but on the opinion of adults who are not the target of the acts. 

Enumerating these categories provides consistency and protects victims from arbitrary value judgments on the part of adults about the student's experience, and that is precisely why TENNESSEE NEEDS HB 927 to make our schools safe educational environments for All Students.