The California state Senate late Thursday approved “Seth’s Law,” an anti-bullying measure aimed at giving public schools tools to prevent and address bullying through mandatory policies and systems to help discourage harassment and track incidents when they do occur.
The bill, introduced by openly gay Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), is named for Seth Walsh, a 13-year-old gay teen who committed suicide last September after enduring years of bullying due to his sexual orientation.
The measure would require districts to create anti-harassment policies and programs that include bullying based on perceived or actual sexual orientation.
Schools would also be required to have a system in place to ensure all reports of bullying are taken seriously and addressed immediately.
The bill passed in the Senate by a vote of 24-14. The measure passed on June 1 in the state Assembly by a vote of 44-17. It now goes to Gov. Jerry Brown, who is expected to sign it into law.
“I’m absolutely ecstatic,” said Wendy Walsh, Seth’s mother.
“I am truly honored. Seth would be very honored. I really hope the governor signs it.”
Seth endured years of relentless bullying and verbal abuse at his Tehachapi, Calif. school. On Sept. 19, 2010, Seth hanged himself from a tree in the family’s backyard after being bullied, threatened and assaulted by at least three teenage boys in a park earlier that afternoon. He died nine days later.
Seth’s mother and close friends reported that teachers and school administrators were aware that Seth was being harassed and, in some instances, participated in the harassment. One teacher allegedly called Seth “fruity” in front of an entire class, and students regularly called him “fag” and “queer.”
On July 1, federal investigators concluded that the Tehachapi Unified School District failed to “adequately investigate or respond appropriately” to reports that Seth was being bullied.
“Public schools have tremendous power and responsibility to protect students from bullying and harassment,” said James Gilliam, director of the Seth Walsh Students’ Rights Project at the ACLU of Southern California, in a statement.
“Better school procedures and policies to prevent and address bullying will make a safer environment for students who are suffering,” he said.