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Asher Brown

Anti-bullying bill passed

There hasn’t been a whole lot of good news this session, but this certainly qualifies.

Eight months after Cy-Fair middle school student Asher Brown’s suicide, the Texas Senate unanimously approved “anti-bullying” legislation aimed at giving school administrators authority to prevent ongoing harassment of students.

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State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, said the legislation will allow school officials to reassign bullies or their victims to other campuses or classes.

Added Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, “The real goal is prevention. We’ve got to hold public school officials accountable when they know about these acts.”

On Tuesday the House concurred with the Senate’s amendments to the bill, HB1942, sending it on its way to the Governor’s desk. Assuming he doesn’t veto it (so far there’s no indication he will) it will be another good day when this law takes effect. For more on the background and legislative journey of this and other related bills, see Legislative Queery. Equality Texas has more.

A bill for Asher

From the inbox:

Representatives Garnet Coleman and Jessica Farrar announced [Friday] that they would again file and work to pass the Dignity For All Students Act to prohibit discrimination or harassment against students and employees of Texas public schools. Recent news reports have highlighted the necessity for such legislation, including the most recent case of 13-year-old Asher Brown, who took his own life after enduring harassment and bullying at his school.

“Every student has the right to a public education, and every student has the right to a safe learning environment,” said Representative Coleman. “My heart breaks for Asher Brown and his family, and every victim of bullying that has to go to school in fear. I have filed this bill every legislative session since 2003. It is high time that we passed this bill before any more children are bullied to suicide or life changing emotional distress.”

The Dignity For All Students Act 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.

“There are too many painful stories and tragic endings,” said Representative Farrar. “When schools turn a blind eye towards discrimination and harassment, we have failed. The Dignity for All Students Act will help set a tone in Texas that no type of discrimination will be tolerated in this state.”

The Dignity for All Students Act also 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. It 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.

See here, here, and here for more. Rep. Coleman has filed similar bills going back to 2003, but they have not made it out of committee. Maybe having a name and a tragedy to attach to it this time will make the difference.