Standing up for all children

Published 10:20 am Monday, July 14, 2008

By Staff
One of the most contentious issues in the General Assembly in the last two years has been something that doesn’t seem all that complicated, protecting children from being harassed or bullied at school.
The House voted Wednesday to reject the Senate version of the anti-bullying bill, making it likely that a conference committee will be appointed to work out the differences between the House and Senate proposals.
The House plan includes sexual orientation in a list of characteristics most commonly targeted for harassment. That ignited a ferocious protest from the religious right last year that intimidated the Senate leadership into deleting the entire list form the bill.
During the debate last summer, House Minority Leader Paul Stam equated being gay with pedophilia and Rep. Mark Hilton wondered why the bill protects people who choose to be a certain way.
When the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board was debating a local version of the same anti-bulling policy in the spring, one speaker said it was all about indoctrination about homosexuality, while others quoted the Bible to oppose “the homosexual agenda.”
Jameson Taylor with Pope Civitas Institute said this week said the House bill provides “special protection for homosexuals,” and he referred to the “homosexual/ACLU” lobby that supports the list of categories.
Stam and Hilton and Taylor make the case themselves for why sexual orientation must be included as a category of students more likely to be harassed at school. They are being harassed during the debate.
Does Stam believe all gay men and lesbians are pedophiles or that being gay should be a crime? Wonder where Hilton gets his information that people choose their sexual orientation? It sure sounds like gay students are at risk if parents of their classmates have those views.
And going to school without being beaten up or harassed is hardly a “special right or protection” it’s a fundamental one that all students deserve. But the opposition has nothing to do with bullying anyway, it is part of a larger crusade to defend discrimination in our society against gay men and lesbians.
Sadly, some politicians who know better have been unwilling to vote to protect children because of fear of retribution at the polls by the religious right. Taylor from the Civitas Institute also seemed upset that Rep. Rick Glazier, the bill’s sponsor in the House, said the legislation was about protecting “all God’s children,” an odd phrase for religious people to find objectionable, unless they think God picks and chooses which children to love.
A survey last year in Charlotte found that 40 percent of students thought bullying was a problem at their school. Charlotte is one of 26 local school systems that have adopted anti-bullying policies on their own that include sexual orientation, not waiting for General Assembly to act.
The school systems are in both traditionally liberal and conservative counties, which must drive the homophobes especially crazy. But children in every county deserve protection from violence and harassment that’s made more likely by the misinformation and offensive claims by people like Stam and Taylor.
Good for the House for standing up for children and for giving the Senate one more chance to protect them.