LVUSD updates anti-bullying policy to increase tolerance on campuses

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The Las Virgenes Unified School District recently updated its anti-bullying policies to include Assembly Bill 9, also known as Seth’s Law.  Through Seth’s Law and the Stop Hate and Respect Everyone (SHARE) Tolerance program, LVUSD hopes to reduce bullying on its campuses.  This year the SHARE Tolerance program will make its annual visit to CHS on March 18.

Seth’s Law, which was passed by the Calif. State Assembly on Sept. 7, 2011, differs from other anti-bullying laws because it includes clauses that target students who are at risk of being bullies.  The law requires teachers in Calif. public schools to have an understanding of the policy and apply their knowledge to help students with bullying issues.  Schools must also publicize their anti-bullying policies through student handbooks and public areas on campus.

“Typically, the people engaging in [bullying] need to be educated about the impact they have on [other students],” said James Gilliam, deputy executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.  “[The bullies] will not learn from their actions if we just punish them with suspension or expulsion.  What they actually need is connection with [other students] and to feel empathy.”

In Sept. 2010, 13-year-old Seth Walsh took his life after years of being bullied at school because of his sexual orientation.  As a result of his death, Calif. legislators drafted Seth’s Law in order to further enforce existing anti-bullying laws to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students.  The law also establishes a clear timeline that schools must follow when investigating claims of bullying.

According to www.equalrights.org, LGBT students feel safer at school when their school policies specifically prohibit discrimination or harassment.  For students identified as bullies, AB 9 offers activities such as reflective essays, anger management classes, social-emotional cognitive skill building and community service.  Legislators and school officials anticipate that these activities will better inform students of how their actions affect the victims of bullying.

“It is the school’s responsibility to take care of its students,” said junior Kazden Watkins.  “The school should be able to take bullying incidents into its own hands.  If bullying becomes repetitive and violent the school should [contact] the police.”

The SHARE Tolerance program also promotes tolerance through a 35-minute documentary concentrating on hate crimes and bullying.  The program visits CHS and other Calif. public schools annually.  The program shows students the effects of hateful, racist and prejudice comments aimed at other individuals.  The SHARE Tolerance program is designed to make students more aware of the effects of bullying.  During the program, officers engage in a 60 to 90 minute discussion with students about the documentary and the challenges of combating hate crimes.

“I think that making the community, and especially the school community, more aware of [bullying] will be good because students will [be more educated] and have more of a say in what happens,” said Gay Straight Alliance club president junior Greta Melendez.

Seth’s Law and SHARE Tolerance both aim to end intolerance and hate crimes in Calif. schools.  Legislators believe that educating students and punishing them for intolerant deeds will decrease instances of bullying on school campuses.

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