Friday, December 16, 2011

West Virginia is Now More Progressive than Virginia

West Virginia is often the brunt of a lot of jokes and unflattering comments by Virginians with much of the commentary focusing on West Virginia's backwardness and lack of sophistication. But now, with West Virginia School Board's passage of anti-gay bulling regulations that specifically protect LGBT students, West Virginia has turned the tables of Virginia and it is Virginia that is now backwards on LGBT issues. In Virginia, LGBT students - and LGBT individuals in general - are open game for discrimination and bullying. Oh, school divisions will claim with a wink and a nod that "all students are protected," but the claims are typically disingenuous bullshit. Just ask Christian Taylor's family how this supposed protections are utterly ignored and bullies allowed to get off free of any consequence. The Charleston Gazette looks at West Virginia's history making regulations (note the whining from the usual hate merchant groups):

For the first time in state history, gay and lesbian students will be expressly protected from school bullying after the West Virginia Board of Education unanimously adopted a new anti-bullying policy Wednesday.

Under the new policy, bullying based on 13 categories including race, religion, ethnicity, and sexual orientation and "gender identity or expression" qualifies as a Level 3 disciplinary offense.

Punishments for harassment can range from detention to suspension from school for 10 days. Students can also be punished for "vulgar or offensive speech" online if it disrupts school learning.

"Students and teachers alike are entitled to a safe educational environment," said state Superintendent of Schools Jorea Marple. "This policy addresses behavior and school safety comprehensively by addressing inappropriate behaviors proactively to promote safe and supportive learning conditions."

Bradley Milam, executive director of Fairness West Virginia, called the board's approval a major victory for civil rights in the state.

"We all know that students are targeted because of physical appearance, disability, or perceived sexual orientation every day in schools all across West Virginia," said Milam. "This policy will ensure that these kinds of bullying incidents and many others will decrease. This could make all the difference in the world to students across West Virginia who are bullying victims."

The policy drew ire Wednesday from conservative groups that said the rule-change would curb students' free speech and seemed to condone homosexuality.

"Why include sexual orientation and gender identity?" asked Tom Fast, of Fayette County. "This is an attempt to sanction the homosexual agenda and lifestyle."

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