LISTEN: Equality Texas’ Chuck Smith talks TX anti-bullying law implementation, Flour Bluff ISD

Chuck Smith

The Texas anti-bully bill passed last year will take effect this fall, requiring schools to implement policies on reporting, preventing and punishing bullying in all its forms, including cyber bullying. An option of removing bullies from the classroom or school instead of transferring the victim is another aspect of the bill.

Equality Texas Deputy Executive Deputy Chuck Smith spoke with KUT News (audio above) about how the organization lobbied for the bill to prevent situations like the one involving Flour Bluff ISD student Ted Molina, who left his high school after years of ridicule and racial slurs in March. He committed suicide April 1.

Molina’s parents have blamed the school for ignoring the bullying and have hired an attorney. Flour Bluff ISD board President released a letter Thursday addressing Molina’s suicide and assuring students and parents that the school district has “always taken student safety very seriously and are continuing their efforts to provide a safe learning environment.”

Flour Bluff High School administrators have added a staff member to its counseling office in addition to holding several meetings with students to prevent bullying and address student concerns, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times reports.

Smith said the bill will force schools to create effective measures for changing bullying before another incident happens.

From KUT News:

“At this point in time, I sort of describe the Flour Bluff ISD as how not to deal with bullying and harassment in public schools,” says Chuck Smith of gay-rights group Equality Texas.

After lobbying for the new anti-bullying law with Equality Texas, Smith is happy that staff will be have required training on how to stop bullying when they see it. There are new staff procedures for reporting and investigating bullying. And a major provision in the new law allows the bully to be relocated to other classrooms or campuses. Smith says he thinks this is a good idea.

“It just provides an additional option,” Smith says. “If it’s in the best interests of the children for safety reasons for them to be separated, it gives them the option of having the victim not be the only child who might be moved.”

—  Dallasvoice

Flour Bluff teen commits suicide; family blames school district for not addressing bullying

Ted Molina

A year after the Flour Bluff Independent School District received national attention for refusing to allow students to form a Gay Straight Alliance, the district is accused of not handling bullying that led to a former student’s suicide on Sunday.

Ted Molina, 16, faced bullying since fifth grade from a group of boys who used racial epithets and threatened to fight him. Molina’s mother is Asian. The family blames the school district for not handling the bullying properly, his aunt told the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.

Molina played football in middle school, but quit his freshman year hoping the taunting would stop. When it continued, he withdrew from Flour Bluff High School on March 5. While he seemed to improve, he posted several grim photos of himself on Facebook hours before he killed himself in his bedroom. He did not leave a note.

From the Caller-Times:

—  Dallasvoice

Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD ignores bigoted Mayor Timothy O’Hare, allows GSA at R.L. Turner

Timothy O’Hare

Last week we told you how bigoted Farmers Branch Mayor Timothy O’Hare had used his Twitter account to rail against the formation of a Gay Straight Alliance at R.L. Turner High School in Carrollton. We also mentioned that we’d heard rumors that the GSA at R.L. Turner had not been allowed to meet.

But Angela Shelley, a spokeswoman for the Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District, told us today that those rumors are completely false. Shelley said the GSA was allowed to form at R.L. Turner and has already met three times. She also said it wasn’t the district’s first GSA; there’s one at Creekview High School.

“By policy and actually by federal law, we can’t keep groups from meeting,” Shelley told Instant Tea. “We do not want to be Flour Bluff ISD [the district in Corpus Christi that recently denied a GSA]. The GSA met all the requirements, they have a great mission and a constitution, and they’re an active group.”

O’Hare, on Twitter, had called on parents and students in the district to do something to stop the GSA, but Shelley said she hasn’t heard of any opposition to the club. In fact, she said three people spoke in favor of allowing the GSA at a school board meeting last week.

O’Hare wants Farmers Branch to secede from the Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD and form its own school district, an issue that voters will decide in the May election. So we’re pretty sure he was just trying to use the GSA as ammo against the Carrollton Farmers-Branch ISD. But apparently it isn’t working, so we guess now he’ll go back to bashing immigrants.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Flour Bluff, Navy DADT discharge, Israel

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. A gay-straight alliance will be allowed temporarily at Flour Bluff ISD near Corpus Christi. We reported last week that all clubs had been banned from the school rather than allow a GSA. A resolution passed at a five-hour school district meeting that will allow the club temporarily.

2. A navy petty officer will be discharged under “don’t ask, don’t tell” after falling asleep in bed with another man. This will be the first DADT discharge since November. Although a repeal has been signed, the policy is still in place until all branches of the armed forces certify it as ready. That should happen in June. They were watching a movie and fell asleep on a twin bed, one under the covers, one over. A roommate of one walked in and reported the incident. No “homosexual conduct” was reported and the incident is being labeled an extreme overreaction.

3. While cities like Dallas are marketing themselves as a great gay destination, Israel is now going after that market as well. At an international tourism fair in Berlin, a delegation from Tel Aviv will invite LGBT tourists to visit their city. The city spent $94 million to promote tourism to the LGBT community last year. The effort will be expanded in 2011.

—  David Taffet

Flour Bluff ISD will allow GSA and other groups on campus — at least for now

Trustees for Flour Bluff High Independent School District approved a resolution late Tuesday night to allow a proposed Gay-Straight Alliance — along with other non-curricular groups — to meet on the school campus, at least temporarily, according to KRISTV, the NBC station in Corpus Christi.

The vote allows the the groups, including a GSA, to meet while the district conducts a study before making a permanent decision. The vote came after nearly five hours, about four of which the trustees spent in a closed executive session discussing the situation.

The decision came after the ACLU threatened legal action against the Flour Bluff High School, where school officials had refused to allow student Nikki Peet to form the GSA, although other groups, like the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, were allowed to meet on campus. School officials then banned all groups to avoid having to allow the GSA.

Nikki Peet was not able to attend the meeting because she is in the hospital being treated for an infection. But her mother, Maria Peet, and other family members were there to speak for her. Members of the GSA at Texas A&M University in Corpus Christi — to whom Nikki Peet had appealed for help — also attended the school board meeting.

Jay Raymond with the TAMU-CC group said his group would be there to “see this through,” and pledged, “There is no chance of this dying down until what we want is what we get.”

—  admin

ACLU threatens to sue Corpus Christi school district for refusing to allow Gay Straight Alliance

The ACLU is demanding that Flour Bluff ISD officials allow a chapter of the Gay Straight Alliance at Flour Bluff High School in Corpus Christi or face legal action.

The principal of Flour Bluff High School has refused to allow the GSA proposed by student Nikki Peet, and the district superintendent has threatened to eliminate all non-curricular clubs to avoid allowing the GSA.

The ACLU, which is representing Peet, says the district is in violation of the federal Equal Access Act because it has allowed other non-curricular clubs — including the chess club; the Key Club; the Family, Careers, Community Leaders of America; and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes — to meet on campus.

“Because Flour Bluff High has opened the door to non-curricular clubs on campus, it is required by law to permit the GSA club,” the ACLU writes in its letter dated today.

The ACLU also maintains that it’s illegal for the district to eliminate all non-curricular clubs to avoid allowing the GSA.

“Recently, a federal court in Mississippi held that when the school district canceled the prom in response to a student’s request to bring a same-sex date, the district violated the student’s First Amendment rights,” the ACLU said. “The proposed action by the District here is no different than the cancellation of the prom that the court held in McMillen to be unconstitutional.”

The ACLU gives the district until March 9 to respond.

“If you refuse to comply with your obligations under the EAA and the First Amendment, we will take whatever steps necessary to protect the rights of our client, Ms. Peet,” the letter states.

Read the ACLU’s letter here.

As we reported earlier, a protest is planned outside Flour Bluff High School on Friday.

—  John Wright