AUSTIN — For the first time in eight years, a pro-LGBT equality bill has advanced to the floor of the Texas House of Representatives. The House Calendars Committee late Wednesday, May 6 scheduled House Bill 1323, known as the Anti-Bullying Bill, for floor debate on Friday, May 8.
However, Equality Texas Executive Director Paul Scott said Thursday morning, May 7, he doesn’t expect the bill to come up for debate until at least Tuesday, May 12.
The bill would significantly expand current anti-bullying regulations, including a requirement that school districts track incidents of bullying that occur based on victims’ sexual orientation and gender identity.
Scott said the Anti-Bullying Bill is the first pro-equality legislation to reach the House floor since the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act of 2001.
Scott said Equality Texas planned ask members to contact their representatives and urge them to support the bill. The bill, which currently has 16 co-sponsors in the House, would expand the definition of bullying to include cyberbullying as well as incidents that occur off school property if they’re likely to disrupt the educational environment on campus.
It would require that perpetrators, not victims, be transferred to another classroom or campus. It would also require school districts to include bullying in their sexual harassment policies, and notify the parents of bullying perpetrators and victims.
The bill would expand the state’s Public Education Information Management System (PEIMS) reporting requirement to include incidents of bullying, harassment and sexual harassment, including a requirement to report incidents based on race, ethnicity, color, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, or disability.
The bill is one of 17 pieces of legislation backed by Equality Texas in this year’s biennial session. Six have been heard by House committees, but only two have been voted out of committee. The other one voted out of committee, which would launch a study of the Hate Crimes Act to determine why it isn’t being used more often, has yet to be scheduled for floor debate.
For more info, go to www.equalitytexas.org.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 8, 2009.