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Florida Passes Anti-Bully Law

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Florida Passes Anti-Bully Law

by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff

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(Tallahassee, Florida) Florida Gov. Charlie Crist ® is expected to sign legislation that would require school districts to prohibit bullying and harassment.

The Senate passed the bill unanimously on Wednesday. It already had passed the House.

Crist has said he would likely sign the bill. ''I'm against bullying, too,'' he said.

The legislation mandates that school districts throughout the state must put in place specific policies to deal with bullying that includes methods of investigating and punishments. It also bans cyber bullying.

The districts would have to comply by December 1 or risk losing state funds.

The legislation does not, however, list specific categories of students that are protected.

During debate Sen. Nan Rich (D) asked, "Does the bill prohibit harassment based on a student?s actual or perceived disability, ethnicity, national origin, gender, gender identity, physical appearance, sexual orientation or other distinguishing personal characteristic in the exactly the same way that it prohibits sexual, racial or religious harassment, which are specified in the bill?"

Sen. Carey Baker, the bills sponsor responded, "Yes it does."

''The intent of this legislation is to protect all children from all types of bullying,'' said Baker.

The bill had the endorsement of most LGBT rights groups in the state who have been fighting for eight years to get the legislation passed.

Equality Florida said that Baker's response on the record makes it clear that the legislative intent requires schools to ensure LGBT protections at the local level.

"The legislature has made clear that any school that fails to prevent and respond to anti-gay bullying and to protect every student will be in violation of this law and will face consequences," said Nadine Smith, Executive Director for Equality Florida.

"We will hold them accountable."

The Senate vote came just a day after dozens of gays and lesbians and their supporters converged on the legislature to press lawmakers to enact the bill.

Among those lobbying legislators were Lynn and Pat Mulder, the parents of Ryan Skipper who was murdered last year in what police have called a hate crime.

Skipper's body was found last year on the side of a road. He had been stabbed more than 20 times.

William David Brown Jr., 20, and Joseph Bearden, 21, are charged with first-degree murder and armed robbery as a hate crime.

Lynn Mulder told lawmakers that combating hate crimes must begin in schools.

?365Gay.com 2008

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