May 04, 2010

>Sirdeaner Walker Talks About Importance of Federal Safe Schools Improvement Act at MA Signing Ceremony

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Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed into law a general anti-bullying bill yesterday. While GLSEN was disappointed that the final bill did not enumerate specific categories of students often targeted for bullying -- something essential to protect students from bullying based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression -- we were proud to be represented at the signing ceremony by new GLSEN National Board of Directors member Sirdeaner Walker.

The Walker family, who lost 11-year-old Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover to suicide a year ago after enduring anti-gay bullying at school, and GLSEN Communications Director Anthony Ramos also had a private meeting with Gov. Patrick, during which he expressed interest in exploring ways to add enumeration to the regulation.

Sirdeaner Walker also gave the following speech at the ceremony about the importance of the federal Safe Schools Improvement Act, which would require schools that receive federal funding to implement enumerated anti-bullying policies. You can view the speech on Facebook here.

I am very thankful to Governor Patrick and the Massachusetts Legislature for bringing attention to the crisis of bullying and harassment in our commonwealth schools.

Passing this bill is a watershed moment, but the work does not end here - indeed, it's just the beginning.

Next, and perhaps even more important, is implementation of the provisions in the bill. In that work we must ensure that we protect those youth most victimized by bullying-that means specifically naming the classes of persons who have historically and disproportionately been the subjects of bullying and harassment.

My son Carl took his life just over one year ago. He was bullied with anti-gay remarks. And Phoebe Prince took her life just a few months ago after relentless sexist bullying.

The sexist and homophobic bullying that Phoebe and Carl faced is all too common. And evidence shows that school officials often do not recognize this kind of bullying and harassment as unacceptable.

I will continue my work with GLSEN to pass the Safe Schools Improvement Act, federal anti-bullying legislation that would ensure all of our students across the country are equally protected from the bullying crisis we are facing.

We need to teach our children the simple message of respect for all. This is not about criminalizing bullying, but about preventing bullying through education.

My son was denied a lifetime of opportunities. I continue this work to ensure that no other child has to endure what my son went through, and that no other family suffers as mine has.

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