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Don't Mess With Texas: Dallas Schools Fight Anti-Gay Bullying

By L.K. Regan

The recent focus on anti-gay bullying in schools has spread across the country—even into the heart of Texas. This Thursday, the Dallas Independent School District approved a new policy that direct addresses bullying of gay students in schools. And the policy was a direct response to community pressure.

In the wake of the recent rash of gay teen suicides resulting from bullying, the Dallas school district began considering its first anti-bullying policy. But their first effort avoided directly mentioning gay and lesbian students specifically, as the original proposal was for a general anti-bullying policy that would not specify categories.

After substantial resistance from LGBT groups and members of the community, however, the school district has rethought that policy, and decided to specify not only who is protected from bullying, but from what they are protected. Bullying, under the policy, "means systematically and chronically inflicting physical hurt or psychological distress on one or more students." It may be any one of many behaviors—hazing, threats, taunting, teasing, confinement, assault, extortion, ridicule, and many more—or "any unwanted purposeful gesture or written, verbal, graphic or physical act" that might be understood as a response to any one of a set of perceived categories. These categories include "gender, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression." Cyberbullying and cyberstalking are also addressed in the policy.

The policy was introduced and shepherded by Dallas ISD trustees Bernadette Nutall and Lew Blackburn. Said Nutall of its passage, "We finally got a bullying policy where everybody is covered." And for her, it's personal. "I was bullied as a child, so I don't want anybody to go through that craziness." And, said Blackburn, "We have tried to be as inclusive as we can.... Schools should be one of the places we call a safe haven for kids."

No policy is perfect, but some policy is better than none, and a policy that specifies LGBT teens as a protected category is better than most. Said trustee Nutall, "I apologize we didn't act on this faster."