FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 11, 2007
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Assembly Approves Bill to Protect all California Students from Bias and Harassment
Sen. Kuehl's Student Civil Rights Act, Sponsored by EQCA, Strengthens Anti-Bias Policies for all Public Schools
SACRAMENTO - The California Assembly on Tuesday approved legislation that will protect all students from harassment and bias in public schools. Lawmakers passed the Student Civil Rights Act, authored by Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, and sponsored by Equality California, with a 42-19 vote.
According to the 2006 California Healthy Kids Survey, approximately 30 percent of California youth in grades seven to 11 report experiencing harassment or bullying based on their actual or perceived race, ethnicity, religion, disability, gender or sexual orientation. SB 777 creates consistent nondiscrimination policies to protect all students in publicly-funded schools and activities, including alternative and charter schools, postsecondary institutions, instructional materials and financial aid programs.
"If California state law is inconsistent and confusing, school districts can't enforce it effectively, and students suffer as a result," said EQCA Executive Director Geoff Kors. "This legislation will make sure that all students in California public schools are protected from harassment and bias. We owe all California students a safe and secure learning environment so they can do better academically and have a strong foundation for future success."
Lack of clarity in state law has resulted in lawsuits that cost taxpayers millions of dollars in unnecessary litigation and settlement costs. In recent years, a handful of California school districts, including Los Angeles, Morgan Hill, Visalia and Banning, have faced lawsuits for failing to protect LGBT students from harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Individual school districts have paid anywhere between $45,000 and more than $1.1 million in settlements or judgments, not including attorney fees.
"Seven years ago, the Legislature passed groundbreaking legislation to protect our students from harassment and discrimination and yet, so many years later, our young people are still being subjected to ridicule, bullying and violence at school," said Sen. Kuehl. "I really hope the governor will sign SB 777 in order to increase the ways in which we are able to protect our students in public schools and give every young person an equal opportunity to succeed in school and lead a safe and rewarding life."
The Student Civil Rights Act will head back to the Senate for a routine concurrence vote before going to the governor's desk for final action.
Equality California is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, grassroots-based, statewide advocacy organization whose mission is to achieve equality and civil rights of all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Californians. Please visit our website at eqca.org.
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