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New focus on bullies

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New focus on bullies



Friday, July 29th, 2005

Boys in bubblegum pink pants and girls who don neckties may be able to breathe a little easier when classes resume at city schools in September.

School officials are taking aim at bullies who mock students for blurring traditional gender lines, according to a revised discipline code obtained by the Daily News.

"This addition is good news for all students," said Kevin Jennings, executive director of the Manhattan-based Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Alliance.

"Anybody who thinks back on their school years can remember girls who were tomboys and boys who threw like girls and how they were treated."

But there is one problem with the new regulation: Educrats have failed to alert parents or advocacy groups to the rule change.

A memo sent to senior school staffers indicates that the city will conduct a public hearing on the change Wednesday.

A public notice about the hearing was quietly posted on the Education Department's Web site two weeks ago.

The notice was not linked to the Web site's home page and could not be found without the exact Internet address. It was completely removed yesterday.

"If all they do is put a policy on paper, that policy isn't worth the paper it is written on," Jennings said.

"My fear, which is well-founded based on their record, is that this will be the beginning and end of what the Education Department does to end gender expression discrimination."

Education Department officials confirmed yesterday the public hearing would take place Wednesday, adding that the rule changes were made so the disciplinary code was in line with the state human rights law. They blamed a technical snafu for the notice being removed from the Web site.

Lance Sun, who will begin the 11th grade at the Queens High School of Teaching in September, said the new discipline code was needed.

He recalled walking the halls last year with a male buddy who has a "feminine" voice. Classmates ridiculed the student as "gay," and teachers did nothing to stop the abuse, he said.

"I have seen a lot of people in school harassed and this will protect them," Lance, 16, said.

The new rules come after the City Council passed a law last year - over a veto by Mayor Bloomberg - that required training teachers to deal with harassment of students and the reporting of incidents of bullying.

Bloomberg had argued the Council overstepped its authority because the state gives the schools chancellor, not the Council, the power to oversee discipline issues.


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