FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 24, 2008
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Protections for Foster Youth Approved in Key Senate Committee
Brownley Bill, Co-sponsored by EQCA, NASW-CA and GSA Network, Passes Senate Human Services Committee. Measure Helps Protect Foster Youth from Bias at School.
SACRAMENTO – A measure that would help protect foster youth against harassment and discrimination at school passed the Senate Human Services Committee on Tuesday with a 3-1 vote. 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 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 Appropriations Committee.
The Foster Youth School Safety Education measure was introduced in response to the death of 15-year-old Lawrence “Larry” King, who was shot by a fellow classmate at E.O. Green Junior High School in Oxnard earlier this year. Larry, who had 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.
“Foster youth like Larry need caring adults in their lives who will take time to explain to them that school should be a safe place and that they are protected under law if they are being bullied or harassed,” said EQCA Executive Director Geoff Kors. “Students who are verbally or physically abused because of their sexual orientation or gender identity are often at-risk for depression, dropout and suicide,” Kors said. “This measure is designed to reduce that risk for foster youth and help give them the resources they need to lead happy and productive 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."
"AB 3015 is important because foster youth and their caregivers need to know that students 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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