The Dallas Independant School District (ISD) passed an anti-bullying policy Thursday night that includes specific protections for gay and lesbian students.
The first policy of its kind in the district, the Dallas ISD guidelines have been praised by local gay and lesbian groups for their language and inclusiveness. Six speakers -- including some students -- urged the board to adopt the new policy, which was later approved in a unanimous vote. "We have tried to be as inclusive as we can," says Lew Blackburn, a trustee who helped draft the policy. "Schools should be one of the places we call a safe haven for kids."
Going into effect immediately, the district's new definition of bullying is widespread and inclusive of a range of behaviors, from hitting to flashing gang signs to intimidation. The definition also includes making fun of students because of their national origin, family background, political beliefs and contains provisions about cyberbullying and cyberstalking.
"It is not only the right thing to do, it is visionary," says CeCe Cox, the executive director of Resource Center Dallas. According to Cox, the policy is the first in the state including specific provisions for gay, lesbian and transgender students. Parts of the policy will be printed in next year's student code of conduct and teachers will go through a training to learn how to identify and report bullying.
It's worth noting that, on top of providing protection on the basis of sexual orientation, the document also singles out gender identity and expression. In addition, the policy makes mention that a student need not actually hold one of these characteristics in order to be the victim of bullying. In other words, a heterosexual kid being called a "fag" because of his perceived sexual orientation is just as big a no-no as a gay student being labeled with the same slur.
I'm feeling these protections and hoping that they translate into more action against perpetrators of harassment and violence -- toward gay and lesbians and all other students. With Willow Palin's recent Facebook rant, maybe Alaska needs to get the memo. And 90 percent of the rest of the world, too.