FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 29, 2008
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Foster Youth Protection Bill Passes Assembly
Brownley Bill, Co-sponsored by EQCA, NASW-CA and GSA Network, Calls for Training Programs in Foster Care System to Prevent Bias at School
SACRAMENTO – Legislation that would help protect foster youth against harassment and discrimination at school passed the California Assembly on Wednesday. Assembly Bill 3015, authored by Assemblymember Julia Brownley, D-Woodland Hills, would educate foster care youth, and their caregivers, about existing California laws that protect students against bias.
The Assembly passed AB 3015 with a 48-29 vote. The bill, which is co-sponsored by Equality California, the California chapter of the National Association of Social Workers and the Gay-Straight Alliance Network, now moves to the Senate, where it will be heard in policy committees.
The Foster Youth School Safety Education measure was introduced in response to the death of 15-year-old Lawrence “Larry” King, who was shot in the head by another classmate at E.O. Green Junior High School in Oxnard. Larry, who had recently begun to identify as gay, was the target of bullying and ridicule by some of his classmates, including the alleged shooter. The victim was in the foster care system and lived in a group home for abused and neglected children.
“It is critical that foster youth like Larry have caring adults in their lives who will take the time to explain to them that school should be a safe place and that they are protected under law,” said EQCA Executive Director Geoff Kors. “Young people in our schools who are bullied and harassed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity are often at-risk for depression, dropout and suicide,” Kors said. “This bill will help protect foster youth and give them some of the tools they need to lead successful lives.”
AB 3015 requires that existing training programs for foster youth and their caregivers include information about California’s school safety laws that protect students from discrimination. EQCA was the sponsor of several bills that have become law protecting public school students from bias based on many factors, including sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.
“The death of a child is a profound loss. Let us remember Larry as a young man who believed it was his protected right to pursue and to discover his own identity,” said Assemblymember Julia Brownley. “It is my deep, sincere hope that AB 3015 serves as a step to providing our young people with a safe, protective environment in which to grow and thrive.”
"Social Workers are the first line of defense in ensuring that foster youth are safe in all their environments, including school," said NASW-CA Executive Director Janlee Wong. "AB 3015 ensures that social workers, foster parents, and most importantly foster youth are informed of the protections foster youth are entitled to on their school campuses and how to report and prevent harassment and violence at school."
"We're pleased that the Assembly passed AB 3015, because foster youth and their caregivers need to know that they have the right to attend a safe school where youth won't be harassed or bullied based on their sexual orientation or gender identity," said GSA Network Executive Director Carolyn Laub. "With the tragic death of Lawrence King, we are all aware of how important it is to do everything we can to stop violence and harassment directed toward LGBT foster youth in their school setting."
Founded in 1998, Equality California celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2008, commemorating a decade of building a state of equality in California. EQCA 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. www.eqca.org
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