Anti-bullying bill clears Texas House

HB 1942, the anti-bullying bill by Rep. Diane Patrick, R-Arlington, cleared the Texas House today on its third and final reading, by a vote of 94-41. According to Equality Texas, which now lists Patrick’s bill as its top priority in this year’s session, no Democrats voted against the measure, which now proceeds to the Senate. From Equality Texas blog:

The Texas House of Representatives today passed anti-bullying legislation supported by Equality Texas on a final vote of 94 to 41. HB 1942 by Rep. Diane Patrick (R-Arlington) is the collaborative product of Rep. Patrick and members of the House Committee on Public Education, including Rep. Mark Strama (D-Austin), Rep. Mark Shelton (R-Fort Worth), Rep. Ryan Guillen (D-Rio Grande City), and Committee Chair Rep. Rob Eissler (R-The Woodlands). The House had tentatively approved HB 1942 on Tuesday night on a 102 – 34 vote.

HB 1942 is the single best opportunity this session for the Texas Legislature to address the problem of bullying, cyberbullying, and harassment in Texas schools.

HB 1942:

• For the first time, includes the definition of bullying in Chaper 37 (Discipline) of the Texas Education Code,

• Updates the definition of bullying to include that through electronic means (cyberbullying),

• For the first time, provides for the transfer of the student who engages in bullying. Currently, only the target of bullying may be transferred.

• Allows staff development to include training on preventing, identifying, responding to, and reporting incidents of bullying.

• Mandates that each board of trustees of each school district adopt a policy, including any necessary procedures, to address the prevention, investigation and reporting of incidents of bullying.

Upon final passage by the House, HB 1942 must now begin the process in the Texas Senate. The bill must be secure a Senate sponsor, secure a public hearing in the Senate Committee on Education, be passed out of committee, and then be passed by the full Senate.

We must not let up in our efforts to secure passage of this bill into law.

Watch for Advocacy Campaigns upcoming to secure the support of your Texas State Senator.

—  John Wright

Equality Texas action alert on anti-bullying bill

Equality Texas has issued an action alert calling on people to contact their representatives and urge them to vote in favor of HB 1942, an anti-bullying bill by State Rep. Diane Patrick, R-Arlington. The bill has been placed on the House General State Calendar for Monday. Click here to send an email to your state representative. Here’s the full text of Equality Texas’ alert:

ACTION ALERT

Vote is Monday, May 2nd on Anti-Bullying Bill HB 1942!

Fact: Time is running out on the Texas Legislature to pass meaningful legislation to address the loss of life associated with bullying, cyberbullying, and harassment. Barely over one month remains in the Session and lawmakers are focused on the budget and redistricting.

Fact: According to information compiled by the Texas School Safety Center at Texas State University – San Marcos, there have been four bullying-related suicides of Texas students since the 2009 Legislative Session when lawmakers also failed to pass meaningful legislation.

Fact: House Bill 1942 by Rep. Diane Patrick has just been placed on the House General State Calendar for Monday, May 2nd.

Fact: We need thousands of Texans to contact their State Representative now and urge passage of  House Bill 1942 by Rep. Diane Patrick .

We simply cannot allow the clock to run out again without taking meaningful action to protect the lives of Texas children.

Please act now.

Click here to send an email to your State Representative.

—  John Wright

LEGE UPDATE: Anti-bullying bills advance; Senate to consider trans marriage ban Monday

Daniel Williams

Anti-bullying bills were voted out of committee in both the House and Senate this week, the 14th of Texas’ 20-week regular legislative session held in odd-numbered years.

Back on April 5 House Public Education Chairman Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, appointed a subcommittee on bullying. Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin, who has filed anti-bullying legislation for the last two sessions, chaired the subcommittee.

On Tuesday, Strama’s subcommittee presented a compromise designed to appease conservatives on the Public Education committee. The bullying subcommittee recommended amending House Bill 1942 by Rep. Diane Patrick, R-Arlington, to include the least controversial elements of other anti-bullying bills and to add the authors of the other bills as co-authors on HB 1942. The newly formed compromise bill requires that anti-bullying materials be included in school health classes and updates the education code to recognize the existence of cyberbullying. Unlike Strama’s original anti-bullying bill, House Bill 224, the compromise only allows administrators to address cyberbullying if it happens on school grounds or at school events. The compromise bill would also allow for the transfer of bullies to different classes or campuses than their victims (currently only the victim may be transferred).

The subcommittee avoided any recognition of LGBT students in its compromise. The bill neither prohibits anti-LGBT discrimination (as legislation filed by Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, would do) nor requires school districts to report if homophobia or transphobia motivated an incident of bullying (as legislation filed by Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, would do).

—  admin

Removal of sexual orientation doesn’t stop bigots — or the ACLU — from opposing anti-bullying bill

Jonathan Saenz

The removal of sexual orientation from an anti-bullying bill didn’t stop anti-gay groups from opposing the measure during a Texas House committee hearing on Tuesday afternoon.

Jonathan Saenz, director of legislative affiars for the Plano-based Liberty Institute, told the House public education committee that even though sexual orientation and other enumerated categories were removed from Rep. Mark Strama’s HB 224, Saenz fears the categories will be restored to the measure at some point.

“It is about the gay rights, the homosexual community, the transgender community, and an effort to create special categories and special rights in our law that don’t currently exist, and really carve off protections for some groups and not others,” Saenz told the committee. “It’s not about bullying, and it’s not about solving this problem. It’s about creating new classes of people and giving special protections to some categories and not others.”

Strama said during the hearing that he has no plans to restore the enumerated categories to the bill.

“We took all those classes out so we wouldn’t have to have this discusssion,” said Strama, D-Austin. “It’s not my intention to put any of that list back in the bill. At this point I’d like to keep it the way it is if we can get this bill moving through the process.”

Representatives from Equality Texas, which supports the bill and testified in favor of it on Tuesday, have said the enumerated categories were removed to improve the bill’s chances of passage and de-politicize the issue.

Also testifying against Strama’s bill were both the anti-gay Texas Eagle Forum and the normally pro-equality American Civil Liberties Union.

ACLU representatives say Strama’s bill, which would allow school officials to crack down on cyberbullying that occurs off campus, creates concerns about free speech and parental rights.

The bill was left pending in the education committee. To watch video of the committee hearing, go here.

—  John Wright

Sen. Wendy Davis, who brought us Joel Burns, now brings us a fully inclusive anti-bullying bill

State Sen. Wendy Davis

Sounds like State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, has introduced a fully inclusive anti-bullying bill. If you’ll recall, State Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin, filed an anti-bullying bill in the House that includes sexual orientation but NOT gender identity/expression. In response to Strama’s as-yet-still-unexplained omission, Equality Texas told us they were working to get a fully inclusive anti-bullying bill introduced on the Senate side. The text of Davis’ SB 245, filed earlier today, wasn’t immediately available on the Legislature’s website, but here’s what Equality Texas said on Twitter just now:

“SB245 filed today by Sen.Wendy Davis relating to bullying & cyberbullying is the #1 priority in @EqualityTexas 2011 Legislative Agenda.”

It’s safe to say that if Equality Texas is calling the bill its No. 1 priority, it includes both sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.

Davis, of course, is a former Fort Worth city councilwoman who handpicked the openly gay Joel Burns as her successor when she stepped down to run for Senate. Yes, that’s Joel Burns of “It Gets Better” fame.

More to come.

—  John Wright