Thursday, March 15, 2007

Garnet Coleman Wants Dignity for All Texas Students

H.B. 2527, the Dignity for All Students Act, prohibits discrimination or harassment against students

(Austin, TX)—Representative Garnet Coleman (D-Houston) announced today he has filed the Dignity for All Students Act to prohibit discrimination or harassment against students in and employees of Texas public schools. According to the Gay and Lesbian Student Education Network (GLSEN), the average GPA for LGBT students who were frequently physically harassed was half a grade lower than that of LGBT students experiencing less harassment (2.6 versus 3.1).

"Every Texas student has the right to a public education. No child should ever have worry about getting on a school bus or walking down a hallway because of fear of harassment or discrimination," said Representative Coleman. "When students are discriminated against in school and the school does nothing about it, we are failing them in a very fundamental way. The Dignity for All Students Act will help set a tone in Texas that no type of discrimination will be tolerated in this state."

H.B. 2527 prohibits discrimination and harassment on the basis of ethnicity, color, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, disability, religion, or national origin. Additionally, the bill prohibits discrimination based on association with a person, and protects both the parents of students and whistleblowers who may report incidents of discrimination or harassment.

"If school officials turn a blind eye to anti-gay harassment while they take steps to deal with other kinds of harassment, they can be liable for violating the federal constitutional rights of the students affected," said Randall Ellis board member of the Texas ACLU. "H.B. 2527 directs Texas schools to take preventive steps by establishing a policy that includes LGBT youth that will help stem harassment before it becomes a problem."

The legislation also provides for data reporting on incidents of harassment in public schools as well as requiring school districts to undergo training on how to respond to and prevent harassment and discrimination at school.

"Knowing what kind of discrimination may be going on in our schools will bring us a lot closer to figuring out how to stop it," said Representative Coleman.

H.B. 2527 has been referred to the House Committee on Public Education. Advocates for this legislation are hopeful that Chairman Rob Eissler (R-The Woodlands) will grant the bill a hearing and allow students to testify to the need of ending discrimination in Texas schools.

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