Advocacy group Fairness West Virginia has partnered with the ACLU to create WV Bully-Free, an initiative aiming to create effective anti-bullying policies in West Virginia.
Eleven states and the District of Columbia currently have LGBT-inclusive anti-bullying laws. However, West Virginia lacks a clause protecting students on grounds of individual characteristics like their perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender identity. WV Bully-Free wishes to change that and lobbies for the introduction of legislation that recognizes and specifically protects at-risk groups like LGBTs.
Enumeration, which would strengthen the current law, is essential to protecting all students. An anti-bullying law that specifies student characteristics would clarify for teachers and administrators which students are most at risk of harassment, how to recognize bullying when it occurs, and how to respond to bullying in appropriate, measured ways.
WV Bully-Free is leading the push to encourage stronger anti-bullying protections and is working across the state to educate the public about why students — especially LGBT youth — need more robust and effective protections from bullying.
The project, which officially launched in July, aims to combat bullying in a variety of ways, and as well as the legislative approach also wishes to highlight personal stories of bullying and the effects that such harassment has.
Among those stories on the WV Bully-Free website is an account by Bradley Milam, the program director of Fairness West Virginia.
You can watch Bradley tell his story below:
You can watch other personal stories here.
Fairness West Virginia has consistently lobbied for changes to school bullying policies, however groups like the Family Policy Council of West Virginia have campaigned against this move, saying that there is no need to change the blanket bullying policy in schools and that to specifically add sexual orientation and gender identity protections introduces themes of sexuality into schools when they need not be there.
However, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network’s 2009 National School Climate Survey, which involved more than 7,260 middle school and high school students, found that nearly nine out of 10 LGBT students experienced harassment in the school year prior to the survey. Furthermore, around two-thirds said because of their perceived or actual sexual orientation they felt unsafe at school.
Yet, the survey found a marked reduction in harassment and students reporting feeling unsafe in schools where LGBT protections were explicitly included in school anti-bullying policies. The survey found that teachers were also more likely to intervene to protect students from anti-LGBT bullying in schools where LGBT-inclusive bullying policies were in force.
To read more about the WV Bully-Free campaign, click here to go to the website.
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