FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 17, 2007
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Senate Judiciary Committee Votes to Keep Discrimination Out of Publicly-Funded Schools
Student Civil Rights Act, Authored by Sen. Sheila Kuehl and Sponsored by EQCA, Protects Students Regardless of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity
Sacramento - Senate lawmakers on Tuesday approved a bill that would protect California students from discrimination in publicly-funded schools and programs regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The Senate Judiciary Committee passed SB 777, authored by Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, and sponsored by Equality California, which creates uniform nondiscrimination standards within the state's education code so students, teachers and school administrators clearly understand the protections that are provided under state law. The bill passed the committee by a 3-1 vote.
"California's youth deserve safe schools where they will not be harassed or ridiculed based on their sexual orientation or gender identity," said EQCA Executive Director Geoff Kors. "One of the best ways to give all students a fair opportunity to learn is by ensuring that all schools follow consistent anti-bias standards. This bill brings the state's education code up to date with California's evolving nondiscrimination policies so that schools have clear guidance regarding their obligations to provide a safe educational environment."
Named the Student Civil Rights Act, the measure strengthens existing nondiscrimination laws and clearly defines the protections a student has within publicly-funded schools and activities, including alternative and charter schools, postsecondary institutions, instructional materials and financial aid programs. It specifically prohibits discrimination based on a person's actual or perceived disability, gender, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation - or association with a person who has any of these characteristics.
"I am very pleased that my colleagues in the Senate understand and support the state's responsibility to protect the safety of our youth and ensure fairness for all Californians," said Sen. Kuehl. "SB 777 is a comprehensive bill that will update California's education code so that all students in our publicly-funded schools and education programs know they are protected by uniform nondiscrimination policies that will be honored by school administrators and teachers across the state."
Brooke Cartolano, a student at Buckingham Charter Magnet High School in Vacaville, testified before the committee detailing bias she and other students faced after forming a Gay-Straight Alliance on their campus. A straight ally, Cartolano also expressed concerns about the safety of her peers who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT).
"Discrimination is a safety issue, and it affects everyone," Cartolano said. "Safety in schools should not only be for a select few students, but for all students. I urge your support on SB 777."
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 www.eqca.org.
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