Friday, March 16, 2012

The Dead Anti-Bullying Bill in Arizona

I'd like to kick off this blog by talking about Arizona SB 1462, otherwise known as the Arizona Bullying Bill

This bill made the news today with its death: the president of the Center for Arizona Policy reportedly convinced legislators to ditch the bill because "Groups like Equality Arizona and the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) have used the bullying issue in order to gain access to our public schools." Arizona Senate Minority Leader David Schapira responded that "Cathi Herrod, an unelected lobbyist, killed a bill that would protect all Arizona kids purely because of her intolerance of gay kids," and helpfully called her a "legislative terrorist." You can read more about it anywhere, but this is a pretty good summary of the situation.

So, what was this bill really about? Was it about gay rights, or was it about protecting kids from bullying? 

Well, I won't hide the ball here: this bill wouldn't have done much to advance "the gay agenda." 

(To be fair, I'm an ardent fan of "the gay agenda," but that's a discussion for another day.) 

Existing anti-bullying law in Arizona, which already included policies and procedures for reporting, investigating, and punishing incidents of bullying. What this bill added was annual training for teachers, administrators, parents, and students "in preventing, identifying, responding to and reporting incidents of harassment, intimidation, or bullying." So far, so good, I think, even for Ms. Herrod.

The snag, as far as she's concerned, was that this training was to be provided free of charge by "a nonprofit organization." Ms. Herrod thought that non-profit organization was going to be someone she doesn't like, such as  - you guessed it - a gay rights group. (Or the Anti-Defamation League. But let's not even go there.) If you're the suspicious type, you might be concerned that advocacy groups of any kind would push their agendas, given an opportunity like this. Right?

Here's the thing. The bill went on to say, "The training provided pursuant to this section shall not be focused on a particular bullied class but rather that bullying is prohibited without regard to the subject matter of the bullying or the motivation of the perpetrator." Now, that wouldn't prevent a trainer from using examples that relate to his or her area of expertise, but it certainly shows that the authors of the bill wanted the training to be neutral. And, arguably, any trainer who used the forum to promote his or her agenda by focusing solely on one group (like LGBT kids, religious kids, atheist kids, disabled kids, or anyone else) would be violating the law.  And, as an additional safeguard, the bill assured that "the school shall notify all parents prior to conducting student training under this provision and shall not provide training to a student whose parent or guardian has not expressly approved of the student's participation in the training." So, parents who were worried that someone might try to push a despised agenda by using this training as a soap box would have every opportunity to protect their kids. 

So, to sum up, this was (1) not a big change from the existing law; and (2) pretty damn neutral as to anyone's agenda (unless that person is pro-bully, of course). 

Too bad it's dead. 

1 comment:

  1. Well, we can't expect AZ to pass anything that might help someone who isn't a white Christian male over 50.