MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – A proposed anti-bullying policy for schools in West Virginia is drawing praise and criticism for acknowledging — for the first time — that sexual orientation and gender identity are common reasons for harassment.
The state Department of Education will consider the 75-page student conduct and disciplinary policy on Dec. 14, and if approved, the changes that acknowledge the targeting of LGBT students would go into effect July 1, 2012.
The draft policy lists 12 possible reasons a child could be bullied. They include race, color, religion, gender, ancestry, national origin, socioeconomic status, academic status, physical appearance, mental, physical or developmental disability, gender identity or expression, and sexual orientation.
Under the proposal, bullying for the specified reasons or any “other characteristic” would be a Level 3 disciplinary offense. Punishments range from as little as before- or after-school detention or a one-day removal from the classroom to weekend detention or suspension for up to 10 days.
The policy also extends beyond school property to the virtual world, holding students accountable for “vulgar or offensive speech” online if it disrupts the learning atmosphere at school.
“This includes blogs and social media postings created for the purpose of inviting others to indulge in disruptive and hateful conduct towards a student or staff member,” the policy says.Associated Press, via ABC News
The civil rights group Fairness West Virginia praised the new language as “a landmark achievement,” and said the policy effectively provides political and legal cover to teachers and others who might hesitate to help a student.
But the West Virginia Family Foundation said the proposal is a “well thought-out, well-crafted design, done for no other reason than to promote the homosexual agenda.”
“They’re trying to force a lifestyle that a majority of the people of West Virginia do not want their kids exposed to. It undermines their values and their religious teaching,” President Kevin McCoy said Monday.
Last week, the Michigan state Senate passed an anti-bullying bill that contained an exception to the law for “a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction.”