7/29/15 School system stands out in national survey

School system stands out in national survey
By Isaac Groves, The Times-News 7/29/15  
Reprinted with permission.

ANTI-BULLYING POLICIES

   The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network study found:

  • 70% of U.S. school districts had anti-bullying policies.
  • 92% of North Carolina districts had anti-bullying policies.
  • 30% of districts nationally had policies protecting sexual orientation.
  • 28% of N.C. districts had policies protecting gays and lesbians.
  • 10% of districts nationally had policies protecting sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • 7% of N.C. districts had policies protecting sexual orientation and gender identity.

  The Alamance-Burlington School System stands out from most districts for including protections for gay, lesbian and transgender students in its anti-bullying policy, according to a national study.

   “My reaction is, it’s a very good policy,” said Ray Pollard, president of the Alamance County chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. “The question is how well is it being affirmed, and how well are people being made aware of it through in-service training.”

   A study released by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network finds while most U.S. school districts have policies against bullying, less than half of those specifically protected gay and lesbian students, and even fewer specifically protected kids based on their gender identity.

   The ABSS policy on harassment and bullying, adopted in 2010, includes both sexual orientation and identity.

   “Bullying or harassing behavior includes, but is not limited to, acts reasonably perceived as being motivated by any actual or perceived differentiating characteristic, such as race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, socioeconomic status, academic status, gender identity, physical appearance, sexual orientation, or mental, physical, developmental, or sensory disability, or by association with a person who has or is perceived to have one or more of these characteristics.”

   According to the GLSEN study, researchers looked at policies in all 13,181 U.S. school districts from 2008 to 2011. Race was the category most commonly covered under anti-bullying policies, followed by gender, religion, and national origin. Sexual orientation was more often covered under anti-bullying policies than ethnicity, age or marital status. Gender identity was more often protected than economic status, political affiliation, pregnancy or homelessness, according to the study.

   About 20 percent of anti-bullying policies nationally required training for teachers and administrators on policies and how to enforce them.

   According to GLSEN, gay and lesbian students were at particular risk of being bullied, but anti-bullying policies can partly counter hostile climates in schools.

   Districts in Southern and Western states were least likely to name sexual orientation and gender identity in anti-bullying policies, according to the study. North Carolina law does name sexual orientation and gender identity in its anti-bullying law, though less than a third of district policies do.

   Pollard said he has questions about how well the district’s policy is applied to gay and lesbian students because of some of the things he has heard from some of the roughly 25 members of the local PFLAG chapter.

   In one recent case, he said, a girl at a middle-school and her mother went to the principal over harassment and bullying in school.

   “The principal’s advice was that if the girl would just dress in a more feminine way she wouldn’t be harassed, and that’s as far as it seemed to go,” Pollard said.

   “Everybody knows that teenagers, and all of us, I guess, tend to say things we shouldn’t say about people who are different from us,” he said. “We all need a reminder from time to time how painful this is for people on the receiving end of this.”