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Florida Bully Bill 'Inadequate' Gays Say


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Florida Bully Bill 'Inadequate' Gays Say

by Fidel Ortega, 365Gay.com Miami Bureau

April 19, 2006 - 12:00 pm ET

(Tallahassee, Florida) A state Senate committee has approved an anti-bullying bill that LGBT rights groups say will do little to stop homophobic attacks on students.

The legislation was unanimously approved by the Senate Education Committee even though it names no specific groups - something gays and other minority groups opposed.

An amendment that would have named specific groups, including gays, religious minorities and racial or ethnic minorities was defeated, despite the appeal of a mother whose 15-year old son committed suicide after being taunted with homophobic slurs, stalked and attacked on student Web sites.

Debbie Johnston said she believes that her son, Jeff, would be alive today had there been a strong anti-bullying law in place that protects gay students.

Democrats on the committee argued that without specifically naming affected groups the bill, if passed, could nullify local school district regulations that already have anti-bullying regulations specifically protecting LGBT students.

Earlier this week Equality Florida said that the legislation would undo decades of work to make students safe.

"It would seem seductively simple to say `all students,' but it doesn't get the job done. There are certain forms of harassment that are considered acceptable," said Equality Florida spokesperson Stratton Pollitzer, during a protest in front of the Ft. Lauderdale school board office.

The bill must pass through two more committees before it can reach the Senate floor.

Meanwhile, Palm Beach County's school board chairman has apologized for referring to gays and lesbians as a "protected species."

Tom Lynch used the phrase during an April 5 meeting in a discussion of the school board's anti-harassment policies.

The Palm Beach County Human Rights Council demanded an apology and later called for Lynch's resignation.

"The purpose in my remarks was in no way meant to be demeaning to any person or group," Lynch wrote in his apology.

"I was actually stating a premise that procedures needed to be in place to help protect any and all children that are being harassed or bullied.

Council founder Rand Hoch said the apology still fell short.

"I just don't think he understands how dehumanizing his comments were to gay and lesbian people and how hurtful they were to gay and lesbian students," Hoch said.

©365Gay.com 2006


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