Thank Gov. Abercrombie For Signing HB688
But Let State Leaders Know That Hawaii Is Far From Truly 'Safe Schools'
Today, Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed into law HB688, the "safe schools bill" addressing bullying and harassment in Hawaii's schools.
We applaud this attempt to provide our students with a safe environment that strives to be free from the bullying, harassment and hate speech that threatens the lives of thousands of LGBT youth across this state and nation. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, Hawaii has the worst record of teen suicide ideation and attempts in the nation.
Thank Gov. Abercrombie...
... for signing this bill into law. Bills such as HB688 are an important first step toward preventing the tragic suicides taken from today's headlines. HB688 is a start and, although pleased with progress on this issue, we also need to let our state's education and legislative leaders know that:
- HB688 is severely deficient
- The Department of Education is delinquent in its mandate to enforce and implement already existing administrative rules related to harassment and bullying
- The University of Hawaii has great steps to take to make the promise of its Board of Regents policy of non-discrimination a reality, especially as it pertains to both gender identity and sexual orientation.
Ask Our Leaders To Continue Our Tradition...
Hawaii has a proud tradition of leading the nation when it matters. We led the way on Title IX to bring gender equity to sports. We are one of the few states which never banned interracial marriage. We are the birthplace of the marriage equality movement.
Yet when it comes to protecting students, 17 states and the District of Columbia have surpassed Hawaii and adopted state-wide laws addressing discrimination, harassment and/or bullying of students based on sexual orientation. The laws in 15 of those states and D.C. also include protections for gender identity.
Our Keiki Deserve Better...
Hawaii had a comprehensive safe schools bill when HB688 was initially introduced. It enumerated specific categories. It mandated training on promoting peace and respect and how to intervene. It required teachers and school employees to act when they witnessed instances of bullying. It established clear lines of accountability that that held school authorities responsible for inaction. It provided resources to victims, perpetrators and their families. It included provisions for cyberbullying.
All Students Deserve An Education Free From Violence, Harassment & Intimidation.
But all that was gutted during the legislative process, leaving a bill that simply requires the Department of Education to monitor its own administrative policies ... policies that have not been enforced, acted upon or - as in 2008 - from which the Board of Education attempted to remove protected categories.
Take Action Now!
This is not acceptable. We cannot wait for a bullied student's suicide to force educational and legislative leaders to present Gov. Abercrombie with a solid, proactive, comprehensive safe schools bill.
Thank Gov. Abercrombie for signing HB688, but let our state's leaders know that more needs to come. Your thanks - and concerns - will be delivered to not only Gov. Abercrombie, but the leaders of our Board of Education, Department of Education, University of Hawaii, Senate, House of Representatives, legislative education committees and the Keiki Caucus.
Mahalo for taking action!
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