As bullying continues to claim the lives of gay and lesbian youth, one California lawmaker has introduced a bill to create a pro-LGBT state license plate. Proceeds from the specialty plates would fund anti-bullying programs in public schools.
“This will be an important opportunity for Californians to show their support for the LGBT community and address a major problem that is affecting all youth,” Assembly Member Mary Hayashi, the bill’s sponsor, said in a January 25 press release.
“By purchasing this plate, the public can put a stop to bullying and help make a difference for our kids,” she added.
Hayashi’s press release cited disappointing statistics about homophobia in schools. A 2009 National School Climate Survey found that eight in 10 LGBT students surveyed said they’d been verbally harassed by their peers, while four in 10 reported physical harassment.
Gay teen suicide has gained widespread media attention and boosted awareness of the harsh, sometimes violent environment many of these young people face every day. But awareness isn’t enough. Schools in California — and across the nation — need to become safe spaces for all students. Measures to prevent bullying are vitally important.
Critics should remember that anti-bullying programs, including an LGBT-inclusive curriculum, won’t cause straight children to become gay. That’s like saying white children will “turn” black if they’re taught to respect all races and learn about the contributions of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Besides, the proposed plates would be optional.
Currently, Californians can choose from 13 themed license plates to support organizations such as the Yosemite Foundation and California Firefighters’ Memorial Fund. California would join South Carolina, Indiana and Maryland as one of the few states to offer an LGBT plate.
Image credit: Jamison Wieser (Creative Commons Attribution License)