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Miami-Dade Schools Add LGBT Bullying Protections

Miami-Dade Schools Add LGBT Bullying Protections

 

The Miami-Dade school district, the 4th largest in the United States, added to its anti-harassment and bullying policies last week by creating explicit protections based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

This is the culmination of over ten years of work by equality groups and the Miami-Dade Safe Schools Coalition.

The amended language in the anti-harassment policy reads:

“Bullying, Harassment, Cyberbullying, and Discrimination (as referred to and defined herein) encompasses, but is not limited to, unwanted harm towards a student or employee based on or with regard to actual or perceived: sex, race, color, religion, national origin, age, disability (physical, mental, or educational), marital status, socio-economic background, ancestry, ethnicity, gender, gender identity or expression, linguistic preference, political beliefs, sexual orientation, or social/family background. This policy prohibits bullying or harassment of any student by any Board member, District employee, consultant, contractor, agent, visitor, volunteer, student, or other person in the school or outside of the school at school-sponsored events, on school buses, and at training facilities or training programs sponsored by the District.”

This change of language adds to the Jeffrey Johnson Stand Up For All Students Act that was passed three years ago which, while applying to LGBT students, did not make their inclusion explicit.

More on why explicit protections are important from the SAVE Dade press release:

“For the past year we’ve focused on strengthening Miami-Dade’s anti-bullying policy as a way to create a climate where bullying a student because of their real or perceived sexual orientation and/or gender identity is no longer tolerated,” said C.J. Ortuno, executive director of SAVE Dade. SAVE Dade worked with their partner the ACLU of Florida in developing the policy’s new language.

“The most common forms of bullying and harassment in Florida schools, and across the country, are based on actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, and physical appearance,” said Shelbi Day, ACLU of Florida LGBT Project Attorney. “Although the state anti-bullying law clearly prohibits bullying and harassment of any students, it is imperative that individual school district policies make clear that bullying and harassment of LGBT students is prohibited and will not be tolerated. This is a critical step in making Florida schools truly safe for all students.”

According to GLSEN’s 2009 National School Climate Survey 7,261 middle and high school students found that nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT students (84.6%) experienced harassment at school in the previous year. Miami-Dade County provides significant support through public school programs and nonprofit organizations for LGBT students.

Suzy Milano, Director of Mental Health and Crisis Management Services for Miami-Dade County Public Schools and Coordinator of the District’s Sexual Minority Network said, “Our work provides prevention and intervention services that promotes awareness, diversity, and acceptance in the fourth largest school district in the country.” Ms. Milano’s project is unique to Florida’s school systems with services focused on protecting students from bullying in schools. Milano also credits SAVE Dade’s technical support as being critical to the policy’s success. The amendment took place during a county wide update aimed at improving and streamlining many of the school district’s administrative policies.

Whereas policy is an important factor in providing anti-bullying protections, it is one of several actions being taken to protect the interest of all students. “To confront bullying head on, we need a balanced approach by passing effective policy and offering programs that educate faculty/administration; removes barriers for reporting; and provides support and safety for all affected students,” said Carla Silva, executive director of the Alliance for GLBTQ Youth. Silva’s organization takes a holistic approach by integrating education, advocacy, and services into programming that helps our LGBT students.

The new language went into into force Friday, 22 July.

The issue of explicit protections and the need for reporting and tracking bullying is perhaps a critical one. If anti-bullying programs do not explicitly mention particular groups that are known to be discriminated against, they run the risk of such incidents not being reported as bias motivated. If school districts and governments lack the essential knowledge of why people are bullying, bullying prevention programs risk becoming vague and even blunted, and therefore it becomes harder to educate children out of a bullying mindset.

This news came in the same week it was announced that Minnesota’s Anoka-Hennepin school district is being sued for its so-called “gag” policy on discussion of LGBT identity in schools.

Related Reading:
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Stephen Colbert: It Gets Better! (VIDEO)

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Photo used under the Creative Commons Attribution License, with thanks to jglsongs.

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11 comments

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7:20PM PDT on Jul 28, 2011

Bullying of any kind is not acceptable.

4:59AM PDT on Jul 27, 2011

Excellent news. Bullying of all kinds needs to be dealt with severely and a zero tolerance implemented and followed. Adding LGBT bullying protection sends a message to those who have been able to get away with it before that it's time to grow up or face punishment for their obnoxious behaviour.

3:12PM PDT on Jul 26, 2011

Let's keep it going until there are explicit policies against harassment and bullying based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression in every school in the world.

7:25AM PDT on Jul 26, 2011

Unfortunately, there will always be bullies and they will target any group that is "different" than them. I blame their parents - my own mother taught me (including by example) to accept everyone and only judge a person by their OWN actions. I have done the same for my own daughters. Race, religion, sexual orientation, etc. These are not reasons to attack another person. We need to embrace the differences as well as the similarities we have with others.

6:49AM PDT on Jul 26, 2011

This is good news. There will be those who, for various reasons, will ask why special mention is needed for homophobic bullying. However, the reasons for this are educationally sound.

Whenever a serious problem or issue arises, it is essential to address that specific problem with targeted measures and policies. For example, when schools noted that students with learning disabilities were being left behind and neglected, special education programs were implemented that allowed most of these students to either overcome their disability, compensate for it, or find other abilities, skills and gifts.

The fact is that homophobic bullying is a serious problem-- and it is not only LGBT and questioning students who are victims. Teachers may also be victims. AND heterosexual students who "don't fit in" are also frequent victims. On occasion, this includes youth from strong faith backgrounds who choose not to get involved in the dating game and definitely are not sexually active.

4:59AM PDT on Jul 26, 2011

Thanks for the article.

4:07AM PDT on Jul 26, 2011

This is a GREAT step towards a better society! Now-Help other schools in the country/nation to do the same. Have the ripple effect-and you've changed the world!

4:59PM PDT on Jul 25, 2011

Miami-Dade has come a long ways!!! Well-done. A school district that actually gives a dam about ALL its students and our future..

2:08PM PDT on Jul 25, 2011

I too am really glad to see that this is being treated with the seriousness it truly deserves. :)

1:45PM PDT on Jul 25, 2011

Glad to see this.

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