POSTED: Friday, May 13, 2011 - 4:54am
UPDATED: Friday, May 13, 2011 - 11:35am
BATON ROUGE, LA (NBC 33) -- The Louisiana House Education Committee convened Wednesday to meet with Louisiana residents before voting 8-4 for hb 112 "Safer Schools Bill."
The bill expands the current law by including six parishes exempted from the current bullying law and enumerates and specifies a list of reasons students are bullied. The Bill also includes colleges where the previous bill just applied to a limited list of Parish high schools.
The bill bans any "offensive" gestures or written, verbal or physical acts occurring on school grounds or at a school event that is motivated by "any actual or perceived characteristic such as a race, color religion, ancestry, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or expression, physical characteristic, political persuasion, mental disability, as well as attire or association with others identified by such categories."
The enumeration was cause for concern amongst house representatives, some of whom tried unsuccessfully to amend the language out of the bill . Supporters for House Bill 112 say the enumeration of what constitutes bullying is a tool in which educators, parents and students can use to protect themselves from harassment in school. "We continue to run the risk of letting administrators pick and choose what students are protected" Kenny Tucker from Forum for Equality told the house.
Those in opposition to the bill say, the current law goes far enough in defining bullying and that house bill 112 is an attempt to promote homosexuality in schools. "This bill is a mandate to ... teach a tolerance of homosexuality" Leslie Elison spoke against the bill.
Anti-bullying bills have sprung up Nationally and gained new support after a string of student suicide due to bullying, garnered national attention across the country in September of last year.
Also present in the house education committee were Louisiana based mental health advocates who had met prior to the meeting at a rally to gain support and visibility for people living with mental disabilities.