Metro Weekly

Safety Monitor

Councilmember's bill would prohibit harassment of LGBT students in public schools, libraries, parks

”D.C. is one of the few handful of jurisdictions that has no anti-bullying legislation at all,” says Alison Gill, public policy associate of the Gay and Lesbian Student Education Network (GLSEN).

That may change – soon.

D.C. City Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5) is currently working on a bill, ”The Harassment and Intimidation Prevention Act of 2010,” which prohibits bullying, harassment and intimidation, even by means of electronic communication at various establishments in D.C., including D.C. Public Schools (DCPS).

Brown held a meeting regarding the bill on Monday, Nov. 29, hearing favorable testimony from Gill, David Apante of GLSEN’s Northern Virginia chapter, and others.

”This is a fully comprehensive bill that covers LGBT students and we definitely are supporting it,” Gill tells Metro Weekly.

According to Gill, GLSEN has been working with Council Chairman Vincent Gray (D) and others since April on a similar bill that would prevent such bullying and intimidation in DCPS. But Brown’s bill goes beyond the city’s public schools.

”The newer bill covers a host of agencies including charter schools, parks, libraries and recreation [facilities] and also [the University of the District of Columbia], so it covers public higher education,” says Gill. ”It requires comprehensive anti-bullying policies, including prompt investigation of incidents of bullying and harassment. It provides for anonymous student reporting, so that’s very helpful to LGBT students who are often afraid to step forward. And it also requires teachers that become aware of incidents of bullying to report it to school administrators.”

During her testimony, Gill offered startling data about LGBT youth, citing GLSEN’s 2009 National School Climate Survey: Nine out of 10 LGBT students experience verbal or physical harassment in school.

”Thirty percent missed at least one day of school in the past month because they felt unsafe or uncomfortable,” she stated in her written testimony. ”LGBT students who were frequently harassed had grades on average a half a grade lower than their peers and were less likely to want to pursue college.”

D.C.’s 2009 Youth Risk Behavior Survey states that 29 percent of lesbian, gay or bisexual students who are in middle school or high school have attempted suicide.

For more information about GLSEN, visit glsen.org.

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