Update: Utah Governor Vetos “Don’t Say Gay” Sex Ed Bill

Utah Governor Gary Herbert  used his red stamp on Friday night to veto a bill that would have banned teachers from discussing homosexuality and also have required sex ed teachers to teach “abstinence only.”

According to Reuters,”In vetoing the measure, dubbed HB 363, Herbert said that as a parent and grandparent he considered proper sex education in public schools an important component to the moral education youngsters receive at home.”

KEUR reports,”The bill had drawn strong public response and thousands of letters to the governor’s office. Allyson Isom, the governor’s spokesperson, says more than 90-percent of those letters and e-mails asked the governor to veto the bill.”

After its passage last month by Utah lawmakers, LGBT community leaders called the bill discriminatory and unfair because it would leave many LGBT youth in the dark when it comes to learning about their own sexualities. It also meant that straight students would no longer be taught any sort of scientific understanding when it comes to sexual and gender minorities.

“Governor Herbert may be taking a substantial political risk with the veto as he campaigns for re-election, Conservative activists within the Republican Party have urged him to sign the bill. ” reports the radio station.

Idaho Senate Passes Anti-Bullying Bill

In a 25-8 vote, Thursday morning, the Senate passed a measure that would bolster Idaho’s current anti-bullying law.

According to Betsy Russell with the Spokesman-Review,”The bill clarifies the definition of bullying in Idaho schools, an infraction; requires school districts to have policies and to train staff on the issue, and to report and address cases of bullying.”

The bill made it out of the Senate Judiciary and Rules Committee last week after a somewhat contentious hearing, during which Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls scolded  the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Nicole LeFavour, D-Boise, for what he saw as “quarreling” over the legislation.

Many saw Davis’s attitude last week as punishment for LeFavour’s unwavering support for a separate bill that would add the word’s “sexual orientation and gender identity” to Idaho’s human rights law.

During testimony before the vote on Thursday,”Senator Edgar Malepeai, D-Pocatello, said as a teacher, “I have dealt with bullying at the high school level. … It’s there.” He said what’s missing is a consistent policy to ensure school districts address it,” Russell reports.

Currently, Idaho has the fourth highest suicide rate in the nation. Studies have shown that those who have been bullied and or harassed at school can be affected by the actions well into their adult years.

While the new bill is not specifically aimed at LGBT students, strengthening the law would make it easier to combat non-gender conforming and sexual orientation bullying as well.

Idaho’s Anti-Bullying Measure Moves on To Senate

A measure that would strengthen Idaho’s existing anti-bullying law passed the Senate Judiciary and Rules Committee on Wednesday with a vote of 5-4.

Among other things, the bill would require school districts and staff to intervene when a student is harassed or bullied.  The bill is sponsored by retiring Sen. Nicole LeFavour, D-Boise, who points to Idaho’s high suicide rate as a major indicator that the current law needs to be made stronger.

The Times-News reports that the bill would, “define bullying and outline what responses school teachers and administrators are responsible for, and set up training for school employees.”

“Many parents and educators spoke in favor of the legislation, saying current district regulations aren’t enough,” reports the paper.

According to this year’s Idaho Youth Risk Behavior Survey, out of 1,702  students in 48 public high schools in Idaho, 22.8 percent report being bullied or harassed on school property within the last year.

But the bill wasn’t without its critics nor was the hearing without its drama.

Many, including the ACLU of Idaho’s Monica Hopkins told the committee that they supported the bill’s intent but felt its language was to broad.

There was also a scolding from Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, who indicated to LeFavour that he was tired of “quarreling” over each point of the bill.

Former Boise teacher and author of the book Hey Back Off: Tips for stopping Teen Harassment, Jennie Withers, writes,”Fighting the current bullying epidemic must begin somewhere. The logical starting point is within school districts.  The fulcrum of any community is its schools. S1358 would provide Idaho’s educators the tools needed to take a knowledgeable, proactive approach to stopping harassment among our children.”

In the end, the committee voted to send S1358 back to the senate for amending before being heard by the full body.

Utah Lawmakers Pass Harmful “Don’t Say Gay” Sex Eduation Bill

A bill that would ban teachers from discussing homosexuality and also require sex ed teachers to teach “abstinence only” has passed the Utah legislature.

According to FOX13-TV,”After the new bill goes into effect, the teaching of sex education in Utah classrooms has to be about not having sex before marriage and fidelity within marriage. Teachers cannot advocate the use of contraceptives anymore and they cannot talk about homosexuality, even if asked by a student.”

The bill also allows Utah schools to opt out of teaching any sort of sex education class at all.

Sen. Ross Romero, D-Salt Lake City, told the Salt Lake Tribune,”lawmakers must understand that not all kids will learn about the topic [sex ed] if it isn’t taught at school.”

LGBT Community leaders say the bill is discriminatory and unfair because it would leave many LGBT youth in the dark when it comes to learning about their own sexualities. It also means that straight students will no longer be taught any sort of scientific understanding when it comes to sexual minorities.

The bill now heads to the Governor’s desk.

Action Alert: Idaho Lawmakers to Consider Strengthening Anti-Bullying Law

A bill that would, among other things, require school districts in Idaho to take action when bullying occurs will receive a public hearing this Wednesday, March 7th, from 1:30-3:00 PM at the statehouse.

According to KBOI-TV in Boise, the bill would also,”..define Cyber-bullying as “the use of information and communication technologies to support deliberate and hostile behavior by an individual or group of students or minors involved in a school-related activity that is intended to harm a student. Such act of harassment, intimidation or bullying may be committed through the use of a land line, car phone or wireless telephone or through the use of data or computer software that is accessed through a computer system. The bill also seeks to strengthen whether or not a violation of the bullying law is a criminal infraction.”

Currently Idaho has the fourth highest suicide rate in the nation. Studies have shown that those who have been bullied and or harassed at school can be affected by the actions well into their adult years.

Idaho State Senator Nicole LeFavour said in an email on Monday that,”We need parents, students & teachers to testify on Idaho’s new proposed Bullying Prevention legislation.”

LeFavour writes,”While it is already against the law to bully other students in Idaho, every week the State Department of Education gets more the one complaint from parents at a loss because their school will not take action to prevent their child from being bullied. It’s time to make Idaho’s law more effective.”

While the new bill is not specifically aimed at LGBT students, strengthening the law would make it easier to combat non-gender conforming and sexual orientation bullying as well.

Click HERE to read the purposed legislation.

What: Anti-Bullying Public Hearing.

When: Wednesday March 7, 1:30-3:00 PM

Where: Senate Judiciary & Rules Committee room in the underground wing of the Capitol off 8th St. in Boise.

Who: Parents, Students & Teachers

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