Equality California and the Gay-Straight Alliance Network have partnered with Assemblymembers Ricardo Lara and Besty Butler to ask that the Joint Legislative Audit Committee authorize an audit of California’s school districts to investigate the level of compliance with laws that protect students against discrimination, bullying and harassment.
According to the press release:
“For over fifteen years, youth leaders in Gay-Straight Alliance clubs across the state have come to Sacramento and successfully urged their legislators to pass life-saving protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth,” said Carolyn Laub, Executive Director of Gay-Straight Alliance Network. “But more often than not, these students return to school only to face more harassment and bullying, with administrators who ignore the law and don’t enforce LGBT students’ right to a safe learning environment. We need this state audit in order to deliver on California’s hard-won promise to keep students safe.”
Gay-Straight Alliance Network, with its partners, has successfully sponsored ten pieces of legislation to address issues of LGBT student safety, including last year’s Seth’s Law (AB 9) and the earlier groundbreaking California Student Safety and Violence Prevention Act of 2000 (AB 537), which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. While all schools are required to implement these laws, reports from students show a patchwork in which some school districts comply and others ignore or subvert the law. The audit is the first step in identifying non-complying districts and providing a pathway to compliance.
“Students must not be allowed to suffer simply because administrators lack the will or ability to protect them,” said Clarissa Filgioun, Equality California board president. “We have the laws we need to make a real impact in reducing bullying and discrimination, but we can’t let safety be an empty promise we make students. This audit will let us know how safe our youth really are.”
According to data from the California Healthy Kids Survey, every year over 200,000 students are harassed because of their sexual orientation, despite the various laws that should promote and protect student safety in schools.
“While we have made great strides legislatively to curve bullying and harassment in schools, recent incidents against LGBT students point to piecemeal compliance that demands attention. We must be vigilant to ensure that laws are being implemented throughout every school in the state. It’s devastating for a child to feel unsafe solely because a school decides not to comply with existing laws. An audit will help identify gaps in enforcement and provide solid recommendations for improvement,” said Assembly Member Lara.
“Schools should be a place of learning and acceptance for students,” said Assembly Member Betsy Butler. “Despite significant improvement, too often school becomes a place of intimidation and harassment for LGBT kids. This audit will ensure every student in California is treated with equality and fairness.”