One week after the U.S. Department of Education released a report detailing state policies on bullying, the West Virginia Board of Education took action to ensure that both "sexual orientation" and "gender identity or expression" are included in the state's anti-bullying policies. The move brings it into line with the majority of states that the Education Department report found include enumerated categories in their state's anti-bullying policies.
As Fairness West Virginia announced on Facebook, "Policy 4373 passes! LGBT students expressly protected from bullying under WV state board[.] The decision was unanimous." The group says the move constitutes the first time that sexual orientation and gender identity were included in the state's anti-bullying policies.
Fairness West Virginia executive director Bradley Milam told Metro Weekly, "We put our whole weight behind this policy, we supported it through and through. We met with the Department of Education ... and had recommended enumation very similar to the kind that's in Policy 4373 that was approved today."
In the new policy's definitions of "Harassment/Bullying/Intimidation," which the policy prohibits, it specifies, "Acts of harassment, intimidation, or bullying that are reasonably perceived as being motivated by any actual or perceived differentiating characteristic, or by association with a person who has or is perceived to have one or more of these characteristics, shall be reported using the following list: race; color; religion; ancestry; national origin; gender; socioeconomic status; academic status; gender identity or expression; physical appearance; sexual orientation; mental/physical/developmental/ sensory disability; or other characteristic."
Although the policy lists more stringent consequences for "a complaint of racial, sexual and/or religious/ethnic harassment or violence," Milam praised today's move, saying, "Our hope is that this kind of policy will get a lot of coverage and that it will actually be implemented in schools across West Virginia. We know that when policies are enumerated like this that students feel significantly safer in their school environment, particularly students who happen to be LGBT or are targeted for being perceived for bewing LGBT."
Earlier today, Milam and victims of bullying spoke at the West Virginia Board of Education meeting that resulted in the passage of the policy.
In the U.S. Department of Education's report, Analysis of State Bullying Laws and Policies, it noted that 41 states have model anti-bullying policies of one form or another. Of those, "Enumeration of groups is addressed in more than two-thirds (71 percent[, or 29 states]) of state model policies, whereas only a little over one-third of laws (37 percent) contain similar language on this component. This may reflect the fact that the inclusion of enumerated groups has been a focus of controversy in legislative and political debate in several states."
Read the U.S. Department of Education report: state-bullying-laws.pdf
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