The Broward County School Board has taken the lead in the fight against bullying in schools. They passed the strongest anti-bullying policy in Florida this week.
According to 365gay.com:
The policy contains a full list of prohibited forms of harassment, bullying and discrimination; prohibitions include targeting victims based on their sexual orientation, as well as gender identity and expression.
The law was passed to comply with new state requirements that school districts develop and enact anti-bully policies by Dec. 1, 2008, and that those policies to protect all students.
Under the requirement, individual school districts decide specific categories of students to be protected, although lawmakers stated on the record that it was designed protect LGBT students, as well as other minorities.
Districts who do not comply by Dec. 1 risk losing state funds.
A 2005 study found that gay-bashing remains a major problem in the nation's schools.
Three-quarters of American students surveyed by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network said that they heard derogatory remarks such as "faggot" or "dyke" frequently or often at school in the previous year. Nearly nine out of 10 reported hearing "that's so gay" or "you're so gay" - meaning stupid or worthless - frequently or often.
Over a third of students said they experienced physical harassment at school on the basis of sexual orientation and more than a quarter on the basis of their gender expression.
Nearly one in five students reported they had been physically assaulted because of their sexual orientation and more than one in 10 reported assaults because of their gender expression.
The study also showed that bullying has a negative impact on learning.
LGBT students were five times more likely to report having skipped school in the last month because of safety concerns than the general population of students.
This is great news for LGBT students in Broward County. It is not entirely surprising, however. Broward is the most liberal county in Florida and many have been moving towards this policy for years here. I only hope that other school districts in Florida, especially those in less progressive areas where LGBT students are already being harassed, follow Broward's lead. With the lack of enumerations in the state anti-bullying law, it will be an uphill battle to protect all of our youth.