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Thursday, July 06, 2006

Bullying bill leaves vulnerable students unprotected, critics say

Human rights protesters argue a proposed school anti-bullying bill in Florida, HB535, is “vague,” leaving most vulnerable students, such as gays and minorities, unprotected, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

The bill, authored by Representative Ellyn Bogdanoff, fails to specifically ban bullying based on race, ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or physical ability or appearance. Stratton Pollitzer, director of Equality Florida South Florida, contends that if the bill becomes law, it will undo decades of work to protect vulnerable students by repealing all the strongest anti-harassment policies implemented by local schools districts, such as Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade. “It would seem seductively simple to say ‘all students,’ but it doesn't get the job done,” says Mr. Pollitzer. “There are certain forms of harassment that are considered acceptable.”

Rep. Bogdanoff says she would not use selective language to define who should be protected because she does not want to uphold the safety of one child over another. “I want to protect all children,” she says. She insists that opponents of the bill are misinformed and the only change to the bill’s language she might consider is to clarify that it does not preclude school districts from creating a separate discrimination policy.