SACRAMENTO — California Governor Jerry Brown (D) on Sunday signed “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 governor also signed two significant transgender rights bills.
The anti-bullying bill (AB 9), introduced by openly gay Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), is named for Seth Walsh, a 13-year-old gay teen who committed suicide in September 2010 after enduring years of bullying due to his sexual orientation.
The new law mandates that schools post anti-bullying policies throughout campuses, provide complaint forms on their websites, and give schools a timeline to investigate and resolve complaints.
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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.
The law, which takes effect in July 2012, also requires schools to have a system in place to ensure all reports of bullying are taken seriously and addressed immediately.
The governor also signed AB 620, which will require public colleges and universities to improve the campus climate for LGBT students by providing access to student services and by adding sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression to campus anti-discrimination policies.
Brown signs transgender rights bills
Governor Brown has also signed into law two significant transgender rights bills.
The first measure, entitled the Gender Nondiscrimination Act (AB 887), makes “gender identity and expression” its own protected category at work, at school, in housing, at public accommodations, and in other settings. The second, the Vital Statistics Modernization Act (AB 433), makes it easier for transgender people to get a court-ordered gender change and updated birth certificate.
“This law will alleviate the confusion, anxiety and even danger that transgender people face when we have identity documents that do not reflect who we are,” said Masen Davis, Executive Director of the Transgender Law Center. “Our victory is a testament that California is at its best when we work together to realize the ideal that everyone should be treated fairly and equally>”
The California Dream Act was also signed into law, a move lauded by LGBTQ student activists across the state who had led the campaign to push this immigrant education rights bill through the state’s political process.