Continued Harassment of LGBT Students Prompts JLAC Audit Request

August 08, 2012

Legislators request audit of implementation of anti-bullying and harassment laws in California Schools

SACRAMENTO – Today, the Joint Legislative Audit Committee (JLAC) approved an audit request with a 9 to 4 vote, to examine the implementation of and compliance with nondiscrimination laws in California public schools.  The audit was jointly requested by Assembly Members Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) and Betsy Butler (D-Los Angeles) and prompted by accounts of continued harassment and bullying in schools.

“While we have made great strides legislatively to curve bullying and harassment in schools, recent incidents against LGBT students point to piecemeal compliance that demands attention.  It’s devastating for a child to feel unsafe in an environment where they are supposed to feel protected. This audit will help identify gaps in compliance and provide solid recommendations for improvement,” said Assembly Member Lara.
Several high profile cases have caught the attention of the public, including the shooting of 15 year-old Lawrence King by a classmate at E.O. Green Junior High School in Oxnard, California, and the suicide of Seth Walsh, a 13 year-old from Tehachapi, California, who took his own life after being chronically bullied at school when he came out as gay. In both cases, questions arose as to whether the schools took appropriate steps in protecting students.

“Schools should be a place of learning and acceptance for students,” said Assembly Member Betsy Butler.  “Despite significant improvement, too often school becomes a place of intimidation and harassment for LGBT kids.  This audit will ensure every student in California is treated with equality and fairness.”

While students are bullied for a variety of reasons, according to the California Healthy Kids Survey, every year over 200,000 students are harassed because they are gay or lesbian or were thought to be gay or lesbian.  These statistics translate to multiple negative consequences for students, including poor academic performance, depression, suicide and substance abuse. Various laws have been passed to address bullying and harassment. However, recent incidents throughout the state suggest that despite this body of law, bullying and harassment against LGBT students is pervasive.

“For over fifteen years, youth leaders in Gay-Straight Alliance clubs across the state have come to Sacramento and successfully urged their legislators to pass life-saving protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth,” said Carolyn Laub, Executive Director of Gay-Straight Alliance Network. “But more often than not, these students return to school only to face more harassment and bullying, with administrators who ignore the law and don't enforce LGBT students’ right to a safe learning environment. We need this state audit in order to deliver on California's hard-won promise to keep students safe.”

“Students must not be allowed to suffer simply because administrators lack the will or ability to protect them,” said Clarissa Filgioun, Equality California Board President.  “We have the laws we need to make a real impact in reducing bullying and discrimination, but we can’t let safety be an empty promise we make students. This audit will let us know how safe our youth really are.”