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|[Video] Anti-bully bill needs revision but finds support in Ga. House education subcommittee|
|by Ryan Watkins|
|March 20, 2013 14:32|
Rep. Keisha Waites (D-Atlanta) fielded questions on her anti-bully legislation, HB 429, today before a Georgia General Assembly education subcommittee.
As written, HB 429 would expand the state's anti-bullying laws and require schools to issue annual reports on instances of bullying where a student is disciplined. Waites is one of three openly gay members of the Georgia General Assembly.
Committee members, including Education Committee Chairman Brooks Coleman (R-Duluth), questioned the need for additional punishments against students who bully, but seemed favorable to the idea of requiring schools to submit annual reports on instances of bullying.
“It is my belief that unhealthy children become unhealthy adults,” Waites told the subcommittee. “When it's harassment based on sex or race, we can do something about that. But when it comes to other issues, such as obesity, sexual orientation, there is no law or state policy that protects our students.”
Objections from members of the committee came over a portion of the bill that would give a misdemeanor to any student who was charged with three separate instances of bullying.
Several subcommittee members, including Coleman, expressed concern about labeling student bullies as criminals.
Waites told the committee that she was open to allowing “friendly amendments” during her testimony and signaled after the hearing she was willing to compromise to move the bill forward, including stripping harsher punishments from the bill.
“We need Republican support for it to pass,” Waites said after the hearing.
LGBT employment bill set for hearing tomorrow
Another General Assembly subcommittee will hear testimony tomorrow on HB 427, the Georgia Fair Employment Practices Act. The bill would protect state employees from job discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The hearing is scheduled for 8 a.m. at the Coverdale Legislative Office Building. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Karla Drenner, Georgia’s first openly gay state lawmaker, and has 55 Democratic co-sponsors, 11 Republicans and one independent.
“Here in Georgia, there has been remarkable support for these basic workplace protections. Currently there are at least 36 municipalities with similar policies and nearly 200 of Georgia's largest private employers also extend these protections to their gay and transgender employees,” Georgia Equality, the statewide LGBT political organization, stated in a press release announcing the hearing.
“Recent polling indicates that 79% of voters statewide support the passage of this legislation, including 90% of voters under the age of 39,” Georgia Equality noted.
Top photo: Rep. Keisha Waites (D-Atlanta) discusses HB 429 at a Georgia General Assembly House Education Subcommittee hearing (by Ryan Watkins)
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