The House Education Committee voted down an anti-bullying bill that would have required Kentucky's public schools to comprehensively address the bullying that occurs there daily.
In addition to providing students with protections from physical, mental and emotional abuse by peers, House Bill 336 would have provided training for teachers and administrators to better identify and stop bullying, and education for school-age children about co-existing with people different from themselves.
On partisan lines, 10 legislators voted the legislation down, while three legislators didn't bother to vote. Those opposed said adequate anti-bullying legislation passed in 2008.
However, testimony of broken-hearted parents whose children committed suicide in the wake of ongoing, severe bullying belied the myth that current law adequately protects our youth.
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Those legislators also cited concerns that the legislation as written would give gay kids special protections.
Interesting, when the actual language of the bill was widely inclusive, arguing for protections based on a student's actual or perceived race; religion; sexual orientation; gender identity; physical, mental or learning disability; or any other distinguishing characteristic.
However, given the disproportionately high rates at which children perceived to be gay are targeted for bullying, the bill might actually specially protect them more than other kids if it created a more level emotional playing field at schools by decreasing the epidemic of bullying against them.
It's unfortunate that one of the bill's benefits was off the radar of our naysaying legislators: the opportunity for students to be taught right from wrong and to suffer reasonable consequences for mistakes made in the relatively safe environments of our schools, without having these consequences irrevocably alter the course of their lives.
Consider the March 19 verdict against Dharun Ravi. As a college freshman, he videotaped his gay roommate having an intimate encounter and posted the video to their classmates at Rutgers University. The roommate committed suicide, and Ravi was convicted of a hate crime, which could result in 10 years in prison.
These young men represent two horribly tragic losses of young lives.
Had Ravi been explicitly educated before college about the inappropriateness of this behavior, had he been told that humiliating someone for any reason is never acceptable, had he been given the tools with which to puzzle through what it means to be gay or straight and how to coexist in the complex milieu of a college dormitory, had he even engaged in bullying in middle or high school and been reprimanded so that he learned the behavior was unacceptable in school and dangerous in the real world, these events may never have transpired.
Lawmakers appear to want to protect mainstream kids from the reality that those other kids exist, and further imply that if they do exist, they deserve the bullying they get. It follows from this logic that if you are bullied for your sexual orientation or identity, these representatives of the people would deny you the protections afforded everyone else.
The reality is, protecting the 90 percent who are straight from the 10 percent who are not does an incredible disservice to everyone.