Steve Ralls

Louisiana Leaves Some Children Behind

Filed By Steve Ralls | April 23, 2008 1:15 PM | comments

Filed in: Action Alerts, Politics, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Day of Silence, legislation, Louisiana, New Orleans, PFLAG, safe schools, transgender

This week, students across the country will participate in The Day of Silence, a remarkable event that rallies thousands of young people to stand in solidarity with their lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender classmates. Later today, in Los Angeles, more than 900 students from the Los Angeles Unified School District will join PFLAG executive director Jody Huckaby, GLSEN executive director Kevin Jennings, and others in a press event to draw attention to this year's observance.

Yet, as so many young people take such brave stands for equality, some elected leaders are one step behind reality when it comes to making our schools safer and more welcoming for LGBT students. Take, for example, the Louisiana House of Representatives, which is currently considering H.B. 674, a safe schools initiative that protects some students, but leaves the most vulnerable behind.

H.B. 674, sponsored by State Representative Walt Leger, prohibits the harassment, intimidation or bullying of a student based on, among other categories, race, religion, gender, disability and sexual orientation. But the bill, which is expected to be voted on the next 10 days or so, does not include transgender or gender-variant students.

That's unacceptable, and that's why PFLAG, and our New Orleans chapter, will not testify in favor of the bill. There is much education that remains to be done. And too many students remain vulnerable under this legislation, which is not all-inclusive.

Indeed, it is often transgender and gender-variant children who face the most horrific taunting, harassment, bullying and abuse. Studies show they are more likely to drop out of school, suffer from depression, or attempt suicide. And the severe bullying that many of them endure renders it nearly impossible to fully participate in the classroom experience. They are too fearful to learn. They feel unwelcome, unsafe and unappreciated in school environments where harassment is rampant . . . and often unchecked and unpunished.

None of our children are "less than," and any legislation that implies as much needs to be revised.

So, PFLAG is joining forces with our New Orleans chapter to call on lawmakers to take one more step in the right direction, and include transgender and gender-variant students as part of H.B. 674. Because we simply cannot stand by as some students are shuffled to the side.

If you are a Louisiana voter, please encourage your Representative to support amending the bill to include everyone. Leaving children behind because of their gender identity or expression is unconscionable. Including everyone is just simply the right thing to do.


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Clarify this. I have a Phyllabuster that states that the New Orleans chapter was prepared this morning to advocate in favor of the transgender-free bill

We are having the same problem in Florida, Steve. We have both a bill without GE or GI, as well as a powerless bill with no enumerated categories at all.

It continues to amaze me that the people who are always crying to "save the children" and crowing about "family values" would refuse to protect all children.

Steve Ralls Steve Ralls | April 23, 2008 1:42 PM

Monica,

The Phyllabuster posting was incorrect. And, I've emailed Phyllis this clarification from PFLAG:

The truth is that our New Orleans chapter will not be testifying in favor of the non-inclusive bill. Our chapter leaders were originally led to believe that H.B. 674 was inclusive of transgender students. But, upon learning that was not the case, the chapter immediately withdrew its plans to address the legislature in support of the bill.

Instead, our national office is working closely with our supporters on the ground in New Orleans to educate the public – and lawmakers – about why an inclusive bill is so essential. We will be working on op-ed placements and other actions to call on Representative Leger and other leaders to make the necessary modifications so that this legislation covers every student, and leaves no child behind.

PFLAG, as always, remains committed to ensuring that students are protected from bullying and harassment regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. Our commitment to that principle has never wavered, and never will.

Go PFLAG! I think Lawrence King proves your point.

PFLAG rocks! Thanks for standing up for full inclusion, Steve!

Monica,

That was true,The local pflag misread the legislative language and was set to testify in favor of the bill at the hearing this morning. National pflag was contacted and they intervened. The letter that Steve posted was sent out to clarify the position of PFLAG.
PFLAG is in total support of gender identity and they have not wavered from their commitment.