The School Violence Prevention Act
How to Implement the New Law Without Promoting Homosexuality
Family North Carolina MagazineWinter 2010
By Alysse ElHage
With the General Assembly’s enactment of the controversial School Violence Prevention Act (SVPA) this past summer, North Carolina now has the dubious distinction of being the only state in the southern United States with an anti-bullying law that includes terms associated with homosexuality, bisexuality and transgenderism in its list of protected categories.1 The new law forces all 115 school districts to update their existing anti-bullying policies by December 31, 2009, with the law’s definition of bullying and harassing behavior, which contains 14 possible motivating characteristics, including real or perceived “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.” It also requires schools to implement “strategies and methods” aimed at preventing bullying or harassment in school.2
Equality North Carolinathe state-level homosexual advocacy group that promoted the legislationhas aptly described the SVPA as “the most progressive anti-bullying law in the South.”3 In addition to being the only Southern state with a pro-homosexual anti-bullying law on the books, the enactment of the SVPA also marks the first time in North Carolina’s history that the terms “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” have been included anywhere in state law.4
The ink was barely dry on Governor Perdue’s signature on the SVPA in late June, when Equality N.C. announced that it was compiling information packets and a toolkit for school systems “to help increase awareness of the new law and its effect within the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community.”5 As this article will show, homosexual advocacy groups have effectively used the bullying issue as a mechanism to promote sexual and gender confusion in schools nationwide.
There is little doubt that Equality N.C. and their allies will attempt to use the SVPA to promote their agenda in North Carolina’s public schools, and that the SPVA makes it easier for them to do so. However, nothing in the law mandates that school systems discuss or promote “sexual orientation” and “gender identity,” or their associated behaviors, to students as part of implementing anti-bullying/harassment policies. Whether or not the SVPA is used to promote homosexuality in our public schools depends on the policies that local school boards adopt, and how they are implemented. It also depends on the diligence of parents and other concerned taxpayers to protest the misuse of the bullying issue as a mechanism to promote or affirm dangerous behaviors to our youth.
Potential Dangers of the New Law
To understand how the inclusion of the terms “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” in an anti-bullying/harassment law could be used to promote homosexuality, a brief look at the history of pro-homosexual “safe school” efforts, and the leading group behind themthe Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN)is in order. It is also helpful to look at what has happened in other states where similar laws have been on the books for several years.
History. The effort to convince schools to adopt pro-homosexual anti-bullying policies is part of a national initiative by homosexual advocacy groups to get “comprehensive” safe school laws enacted in every state by portraying LGBT students as targeted victims of bullying, harassment and discrimination in need of special protections.
The leading group behind this effort is GLSEN, which defines comprehensive safe school laws as “statewide anti-harassment and/or non-discrimination laws that are inclusive of the categories of sexual orientation and/or gender identity/expression.”6
GLSEN was founded in 1995 by homosexual author and former schoolteacher, Kevin Jennings, who was recently appointed Assistant Deputy Secretary for Safe and Drug Free Schools under the U.S. Department of Education.7 Jennings is credited with founding the nation’s first homosexual student club (i.e., Gay-Straight Alliance/GSA), and with helping to start the nation’s first state-funded “safe schools” program in Massachusetts.8 Since then, GLSEN and its allies have helped enact “safe” school laws in a growing number of states, most recently in North Carolina.
National Landscape. According to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), 14 states plus D.C. have enacted laws prohibiting discrimination, harassment and/or bullying of students based on “sexual orientation.” Ten of these laws, including North Carolina’s, also include “gender identity” as a protected category.9
Two states in particularCalifornia and Minnesotaare prime examples of how homosexual activists have successfully used the safety issue to promote the normalization of homosexuality in the classroom. The following examples highlight two areas often targeted by homosexual activists: staff training (led by LGBT advocacy groups and/or their allies), and student awareness (i.e., LGBT-inclusive curriculum, LGBT events/programs, and GSAs).10
California enacted its law prohibiting discrimination/harassment on the basis of “real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity” in schools in 2000. Known as the “California Student Safety and Violence Prevention Act,” the law made changes to the education code by adding these terms to its nondiscrimination policy.11
The San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) has a policy that prohibits “gender-based” harassment, which provides that students: “have the right to be addressed by a name and pronoun corresponding to their gender identity” used exclusively at school; “access the restroom that corresponds to their gender identity;” and “dress in accordance with their gender identity…within constraints” of the school dress code.” In addition, it states that transgender students “shall not be forced to use the locker room corresponding to their gender assigned at birth.”12
Additionally, the SFUSD operates a “support” department for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) students, and requires elementary, middle and high school students to take specific lessons on LGBT family diversity and violence prevention.13 The SFUSD Support Services for LGBTQ Youth web site also informs parents that the district is not required under California law to notify them about (or get their permission prior to) discussions or lessons involving LGBTQ families or people, LGBT-themed school events, or the use of books with LGBT characters or plots.14
Recent events involving the Alameda Unified School District (AUSD), which has a nondiscrimination policy that includes “sexual orientation,” highlight the potential conflict between LGBT-inclusive anti-bullying/nondiscrimination policies, and parental rights.15 In May 2009, the AUSD approved the “Safe Communities CurriculumLesson 9” for elementary school students, which was intended to prevent “discrimination and harassment of students based on perceived or actual sexual orientation of students and their families.”16 It includes instruction for first graders on “what makes a family;” instruction for second graders on “identification, understanding and tolerance of alternative family structures;” and instruction for third graders on family diversity and sensitivity for LGBT families.17
Several local parents objected to “Lesson 9,” and requested that their children be excused from the classes, citing the fact that California law includes an opt-out provision for health-related instruction. When the school district denied their request, the parents filed a lawsuit against the AUSD, asking a court to order the district to allow their children to opt-out of the “Lesson 9” instruction. On November 25, a superior court judge denied their request, ruling that “Lesson 9” does not fall under the health instruction category, and that “any opt-out right” is “outweighed by the policies against discrimination and harassment of students from LGBT families.”18 In response to the local and national outcry over the anti-bullying curriculum, the AUSD school board voted on December 7 to replace “Lesson 9” with “six literature books to be used in grades K-5” that address tolerance of six protected classes, including sexual orientation. The anti-bullying books will be selected by a group of teachers and brought to the board for approval in 2010.19
Minnesota has a nondiscrimination law that prohibits harassment/discrimination in several areas, including education, and includes “sexual orientation” as a protected category. Known as the “Minnesota Human Rights Act,” it defines “sexual orientation” to include transgender individuals.20 Both the St. Paul and Minneapolis school systems are examples of how homosexual advocacy groups have used the safety issue to become part of the educational establishment.
For example, St. Paul Public Schools has a program called “Out for Equity,” which operates under the district’s Office of Educational Equity. The group’s activities include: providing LGBTQ educational resources, such as “age-appropriate” classroom lessons; conducting anti-bullying/harassment training; and facilitating student-run GSAs. In addition, the program’s web site offers class credits for high school students to attend courses such as, “LGBTQA Health” (described as high school health that “will cater to an LGBTQA audience and cover LGBTQ issues”).21
Minneapolis Public Schools sponsors a similar program called, “Out 4 Good.” Among its services: “safe space teams” in schools; student social support groups; individual counseling for students; staff development and training; and LGBT-inclusive curriculum.22 On its web site, curious students can find informational brochures, including one entitled, “I Think I Might Be Gay,” which answers questions such as, “How Can I Find Other Men Like Me?” and includes this answer: “many colleges and universities have gay and lesbian organizations. Check the phone book for a local hotline…”23
A Closer Look at the SVPA
Some would argue that California and Minnesota are extreme examples of how anti-bullying/harassment laws with LGBT-inclusive categories have opened the doors for the promotion of the homosexual agenda in schools. It is true that LGBT advocacy groups are very active in both states. Still, these states offer a glimpse of what homosexual advocacy groups would like to see happen in every school nationwide, including here in North Carolina.
However, there is no reason for North Carolina to head down this road. In fact, school districts can implement effective policies against bullying that adhere to the SVPA’s mandated language, while specifically prohibiting the promotion of homosexuality in their schools. Understanding what is and what is not required by the SVPA is the key to implementing effective anti-bullying policies that do not promote a radical social agenda.
SVPA Requirements. The SVPA includes a specific definition of bullying or harassing behavior that school systems are mandated to incorporate into their anti-bullying policies before December 31, 2009. In part, the SVPA defines bullying or harassing behavior as including but not limited to: “acts reasonably perceived as being motivated by any actual or perceived differentiating characteristic, such as race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, socioeconomic status, academic status, gender identity, physical appearance, sexual orientation, or mental, physical, developmental, or sensory disability, or by association with a person who has or is perceived to have one or more of these characteristics” (emphasis added).24
The SVPA also requires that local school districts adopt anti-bullying policies that include eight minimum components, including a statement prohibiting bullying/harassing behavior, a definition of bullying or harassing behavior that is “no less inclusive” than the law’s definition, and the positive behavior expected of students and school employees (see sidebar on page 9 for all eight components).25 It also includes a provision that allows school districts to adopt a policy that goes beyond these requirements.26
Additionally, school districts are required to publicize their anti-bullying policies, such as in student and employee handbooks and other publications dealing with school rules and procedures, and to incorporate them into staff training programs.27 Depending on available funding, schools must also train employees and volunteers about the new policy by March 1, 2010.28 Schools are also mandated to “develop and implement methods and strategies for promoting school environments that are free of bullying or harassing behavior.”29
In addition to these requirements, the SVPA contains two provisions that are important to any new anti-bullying policies adopted by school districts.
Free Speech. Section 8 of the SVPA states: “This article shall not be construed to permit school officials to punish student expression or speech based on an undifferentiated fear or apprehension of disturbance or out of a desire to avoid the discomfort and unpleasantness that always accompany an unpopular viewpoint.”30 This provision was added to address very real concerns over the potential misuse of the anti-bullying law to punish free speech and religious expression among students, particularly regarding the controversial issue of homosexuality.
No New Class. Section 8 of the SVPA also includes the following provision: “Nothing in this act shall be construed to create any classification, protected class, suspect category, or preference beyond those existing in present statute or case law.”31 This provision is important because, as stated earlier, the terms “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” do not exist anywhere in North Carolina law, nor are they defined in the SVPA.
Finally, it is important to clarify what the SVPA does not mandate. Specifically:
- It does not mandate what an anti-bullying program in a particular district should look like.
- It does not require school districts to affirm, promote or even discuss “sexual orientation” or “gender identity,” or their associated behaviors as part of anti-bullying programs. In fact, it does not even define these terms.
- It does not require schools to promote or sponsor homosexual student clubs/ GSAs, or LGBT events, nor does it require schools to incorporate LGBT issues into school curriculum.
- It does not mandate school districts to bring in homosexual advocacy groups to train staff or promote LGBT awareness. These groups include Equality NC, Safe Schools N.C., GSafe, GSLEN, and PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays).
Prohibiting Bullying Without Promoting Homosexuality
The SVPA requires school districts to update their existing anti-bullying/harassment policies to reflect its definition of bullying. While this definition includes the terms “sexual orientation” and “gender identity,” nothing in the law mandates that school district policies and/or anti-bullying programs focus specifically on these characteristics. In fact, it would be unfair for school districts to single out LGBT students as potential bullying victims deserving of special attention, when there are any number of possible reasons a child may become the victim of bullying, ranging from the size of their bodies or the shape of their noses, to their personalities, or for no reason at all.
Brenda High, founder and co-director of Bully Police USA, believes the most effective anti-bullying laws/policies are those that focus on bullies and their behavior, not on the potential victims, becauseas she points outany child can become a victim of bullying. Brenda should know. Her son, Jared, committed suicide at age 13, after being repeatedly victimized and beaten by bullies at his middle school.32
Since her son’s tragic death, Brenda has been involved in the successful passage of anti-bullying laws in several states, but she does not believe that these laws should include a list of potential victims. In fact, Bully Police USA recommends not adding victim categories to anti-bullying laws/policies, in part, because, “the way a bully’s target or victim acts or physically looks is not the victim’s problem but the bully’s own psychological problem.”33
“All that needs to be done to stop bullying is to stop the behavior of these bullies,” Brenda said in a 2008 interview on the North Carolina Family Policy Council’s weekly radio program. “What kids need to learn to do is respect one another, not to particularly like someone. We as a nation are putting too much emphasis on solving the bullying problem by looking at victims and defining what they do.”34
Instead of trying to focus on specific “at-risk” groups of bullying victims, school districts should implement strong policies that prohibit bullying and harassment, and demand respectful and compassionate behavior by and for all studentsregardless of differences. Additionally, these policies should expressly prohibit the promotion, affirmation and discussion of homosexuality, bisexuality and transgenderism in the classroom. (See sidebar on page 11 for suggested language for local anti-bullying policies.)
Without question, the SVPA could potentially open the door for the promotion of sexual and gender confusion in North Carolina’s public schools. But it does not have to go any further than the controversial terminology in the law’s list of protected categories. There is no reason for North Carolina to head in the same direction as states like Minnesota, where homosexual advocacy groups have used the “safety” issue so effectively that their programs have become a “legitimate” part of the school system, and their radical ideology is taught as truth in the classroom.
It is not necessary to promote, affirm, or even discuss homosexuality, bisexuality or transgenderism in order to promote a safe school environment for all children, including those who struggle with sexual or gender confusion. School districts should enact anti-bullying policies that adhere to the requirements of the SVPA, while expressly prohibiting the affirmation, promotion and/or discussion of homosexuality, bisexuality and transgenderism. North Carolina schools should not allow the safety issue to be hijacked by activists seeking to promote the homosexual agenda, but instead go back to teaching and enforcing the “golden rule”: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
1. Family Equality Council, “State-by-State Anti-Bullying Laws in the U.S.,” November 2009, www.familyequality.org. See also: Equality North Carolina, PR, at: http://equalitync.org/news1/2009-legislative-session-brings-major-progress-for-lgbt-north-carolinians. Also: http://equalitync.org/news1/victory-so-now-what
2. Session Law 2009-212, SB 526, “The School Violence Prevention Act.”
3. Equality NC, “Victory: So Now What?” 7/9/09 at: http://equalitync.org/news1/victory-so-now-what
6. GSLEN, State of the States, 2004: A Policy Analysis of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Safer Schools Laws, 2004, pg. 6.
7. U.S. Department of Education, Kevin Jennings Bio, as found at: http://www.ed.gov/news/staff/bios/jennings.html See also: ElHage, Alysse, “In the Name of Safety,” Family North Carolina, March/April 2008.
8. ElHage, Alysse, “In the Name of Safety,” Family North Carolina, March/April 2008.
9. Human Rights Campaign (HRC), Map, “Statewide School Laws and Policies,” July 2009, www.hrc.org/state_laws. See also: Family Equality Council, “State-by-State Anti-Bullying Laws in the U.S.,” November 2009.
10. Op. Cit., ElHage, “In the Name of Safety.”
11. GSA Network, “AB 537 Fact Sheet: California School Safety and Violence Prevention Act,” at: http://gsanetwork.org/resources/legal-resources/ab-537-fact-sheet.
12. San Francisco Unified School District, Board Policy R5163, as found at: http://www.healthiersf.org/LGBTQ/GetTheFacts/pol-transgender.html.
13. SFUSD, Student Support Services Department, Support Services for LGBTQ Youth, “Curriculum,” as found at: http://www.healthiersf.org/LGBTQ/InTheClassroom/curriculum.html
14. SFUSD, Student Support Services Department, Support Services for LGBTQ Youth, ”Parental Notification: Things to Consider,” as found at: http://www.healthiersf.org/LGBTQ/GetTheFacts/notification.html
15. Regarding non-discrimination policy, see: Alameda Unified School District, Board of Education Policies, 0410, available at: http://www.acoe.org/acoe/Home/Board/PolicyManual.
16. Blade v. Alameda Unified School District (2009), Superior Court of California, County of Alameda, Order No. RG09468037.
19. Leff, Lisa, “SF Bay Area Schools Phase Out Gay-friendly Curriculum,” Associated Press, 12/10/09. Also: AUSD School Board, “Recommendation of Anti-Bullying Instructional Materials,” 12/8/09, as found at: http://www.alameda.k12.ca.us/images/stories/pdfs/boemtg/boe120809antibullyingimrecommendation.pdf
20. Minnesota Department of Human Rights, “Your Rights Under the Minnesota Human Rights Act,” July 2005, as found at: http://www.humanrights.state.mn.us/yourrights/factsheets.html
21. Out For Equity, http://outforequity.spps.org/
22. Out 4 Good: Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Program, Minneapolis Public Schools, as found at: http://sss.mpls.k12.mn.us/Out4Good.html
23. Out 4 Good, “I Think I Might Be Gay,” A Brochure for Young Men, as found at: http://sss.mpls.k12.mn.us/Out4Good.html
24. Session Law 2009-212, SB 526, “The School Violence Prevention Act” (SVPA), G.S. §115C-407.5 (a).
25. SVPA, G.S. §115C-407.6 (b).
26. SVPA, G.S. §115C-407.6 (c).
27. Ibid., section 6, (d) and (e).
28. Ibid., section 6, (f).
29. SVPA, G.S. §115C-407.7.
30. Ibid. SVPA, G.S. §115C-407.8 (a).
31. Ibid. section 8, (f).
32. Bully Police USA, “About Brenda High,” www.bullypolice.org/brenda.html.
33. Bully Police USA, “Making the Grade,” http://www.bullypolice.org/grade.html
34. Transcript of radio interview with Brenda High on “Family Policy Matters” radio show, January 2008.
Alysse ElHase is associate director of research for the North Carolina Family Policy Council.
Copyright © 2010. North Carolina Family Policy Council. All rights reserved.