Texas: Legislature Spotlights Bullying in Schools

From The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/04/us/04ttbullying.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=texas%20school%20bullying&st=cse

By MORGAN SMITH
Published: March 3, 2011

The scariest part of the school day for one student in the Austin Independent School District is before classes begin. For the female-to-male transgender 16-year-old, the “nerve-racking” minutes he spends trying to find his friends at school each morning is when bullies are most likely to strike.

“People don’t mess with groups of people,” he said. “But they see someone walking by themselves, and there’s no fear there.”

The student has been tripped, had gum thrown in his hair and been called names. But his mother — who asked that she and her son not be identified because he has been victimized — recognizes that it could be worse.

“We are not the tragic story of bullying,” she said.

In Texas, the most highly publicized of those stories is Asher Brown’s. Asher, an eighth grader at a Cypress-Fairbanks middle school, shot himself last fall after what his parents said was two years of harassment for his small size, religion and perceived sexuality.

Asher’s death has given momentum to antibullying bills filed in the Legislature this session — there are currently more than 15. But the prospect of legislation, supported by teacher organizations and advocacy groups like the Anti-Defamation League, has drawn opponents as diverse as the American Civil Liberties Union and the Liberty Institute, a conservative legal organization. They question how successful any new law will be in curbing aggression in schools and say that policing such conduct is best accomplished locally.

One challenge is how to define punishable behavior. State Representative Todd Smith, Republican of Bedford, said he was skeptical of any bill’s ability to provide “a clear, bright line definition of bullying.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/04/us/04ttbullying.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=texas%20school%20bullying&st=cse

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