FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 24, 2007
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Senate Passes Student Civil Rights Act, Protecting All California Students
Kuehl's SB 777, Sponsored by EQCA, Strengthens State Education Policies to Prevent Bias and Discrimination
SACRAMENTO - The California Senate on Monday passed legislation that would protect all California students from harassment and bias in public schools based on their gender identity or sexual orientation. Legislators approved SB 777, authored by Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, and sponsored by Equality California, by a 23-13 vote.
The Student Civil Rights Act ensures that all students in publicly-funded schools, including those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT), clearly understand the protections they are provided under state law. SB 777 creates uniform nondiscrimination standards within the state's education code and clarifies the responsibility of school officials to ensure a safe learning environment.
"Schools need clear direction - not mixed messages -from the state to adopt adequate policies to protect all youth," said EQCA Executive Director Geoff Kors. "Inconsistencies in state law create significant gaps that leave students vulnerable to harassment and bias and unaware of their rights. SB 777 helps fill those gaps so that all youth are protected."
Nearly 30 percent of youth in grades seven to 11 in California have experienced harassment or bullying based on their actual or perceived race or ethnicity, religion, disability, gender and sexual orientation, according to the California Healthy Kids Survey released in 2006. Kuehl's measure strengthens existing nondiscrimination laws to protect students based on these characteristics. SB 777 covers publicly-funded schools and activities, including alternative and charter schools, postsecondary institutions, instructional materials and financial aid programs.
"Seven years after legislation protecting students from discrimination and harassment in all public school settings took effect, our young people are still being subjected to violence and ridicule on a daily basis in the classroom and in the school yard," said Sen. Kuehl. "We simply have to do better in protecting our students, and SB 777 is an important part of the solution."
"Right wing extremists have recently attacked this bill, grossly distorting the facts about what the legislation does," said Kors. "The Student Civil Rights Act protects all youth, not only those who identify as LGBT, from discrimination so they all have the opportunity to succeed in school and thrive in life."
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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