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Monday, March 14, 2011

Tom Ammiano Goes After Gay Bullying With New Legislation

Posted By on Mon, Mar 14, 2011 at 5:34 PM

Ammiano ... trying to make it get better for gay teens
  • Ammiano ... trying to make it get better for gay teens

Call it Assemblyman Tom Ammiano's new twist to the "It gets better" campaign. The seasoned pol, who is openly gay, is trying to truly make things better for gay teens with new legislation requiring schools to intervene when kids are bullied.

On Monday, he unveiled the language to AB 9, which has been dubbed Seth's Law. The bill, which was named after 13-year-old Seth Walsh, a gay student from Tehachapi who killed himself in September after he was bullied because of his sexual orientation, calls for school districts to implement policies and programs aimed at curbing bullying and harassment.

And although discrimination is not technically allowed in any California school, incidents of gay bullying seem to be handled with the "use your best judgment" philosophy, said Matt Bunch, government affairs manager with Equality California.

And, well, let's face it. Not everyone exercises good judgment.

"Bullying is already illegal, but what we are trying to do is teach schools how to cope with it and teach students that it's wrong," Bunch told SF Weekly after the language of the bill was introduced. "Schools would now have to intervene."

Under the legislation, schools would have to come up with policies -- if they don't have them already -- such as counseling victims of bullying as well as the bullies themselves.

Teachers would have to be trained on how to identify harassment that targets gay teens.

"It's clear we need laws like this," Bunch said. "So many kids are going to school and being bullied and harassed for so many years that the scars they carry with them for life, if they survive, are painful."

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About The Author

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert was the Online News Editor for SF Weekly from 2010 to 2015. She's a Texas native and has a closet full of cowboy boots to prove it.


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