Thursday, January 27, 2011

PFLAG Dayton President Nancy Tepfer on Ohio’s New Non-Discrimination Order




I live in Ohio, a state that ranks near the bottom of all fifty states plus the District of Columbia in civil rights for LGBT citizens. Although many Ohio municipalities (including my city of Dayton) have passed anti-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation and gender identity, no state wide pro-LGBT legislation has been enacted. Our anti-marriage constitutional amendment is one of the harshest in the country.

There were glimmers of hope during the previous administration of Governor Ted Strickland, who strived for fairness through executive order (EO). One such measure prohibited discrimination in state employment on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, national origin, military status, disability, age, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

John Kasich, our newly elected governor, just issued his own state employment non-discrimination EO. Read more about the statement here. It looks like the previous one. Premature sighs of relief. But wait, there’s a vital two word difference -- gender identity is gone!

When asked about the omission, spokesman Scott Milburn replied: “The governor is opposed to discrimination in state employment and has made that clear in this executive order in the way that he feels is most appropriate.”

I have a theory, entirely my own, about why Governor Kasich did this. Trying to walk a tightrope in a swing state, he opted to both placate and disturb conservatives and progressives. Social conservatives will be upset that sexual orientation is still included but pleased that gender identity is not. Progressives, on the other hand, will be grateful that sexual orientation made the cut while upset that gender identity did not.

Governor Kasich has greatly underestimated the strength of will and tenacity of Ohio LGBT citizens, their friends, families and straight allies. We will not stand by as one segment of our community is singled out for state-sanctioned discrimination. If you are an Ohio resident, contact Governor Kasich’s office at (614) 466-3555 and tell his staff you want gender identity returned to the non-discrimination EO for state employees.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

PFLAG New Hampshire Awards Allies at a Local Retirement Community

PFLAG New Hampshire’s first Straight for Equality Award was presented to Michael Palmieri, President/CEO of Havenwood/Heritage Heights Continuing Care Retirement Community (HHH/ CCRC) at PFLAG NH’s annual meeting.

PFLAG NH council founders and members Gordon and Cynthia Sherman, who now reside at Havenwood, proudly presented the award at PFLAG NH’s annual meeting.

Havenwood/Heritage Heights is a community that has been open, affirming and welcoming to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people for many years. Said Michael Palmieri, “The community is enriched by the diversity of its members living together in a spirit of mutual respect and acceptance.”

Pictured above: Michael Palmieri/ CEO Havenwood, Cynthia & Gordon Sherman, PFLAG NH Council founders and residents of Havenwood.

Grocery Store Shields "young shoppers" from Elton John US Weekly Cover

Yesterday, a woman in AR tweeted a picture from her local grocery store. In the picture (here) the store had put a privacy shield over this week’s edition of celebrity magazine US Weekly. The store was hiding the cover which featured singer Elton John, his husband and their new baby from their “young shoppers". First of all, hooray for observant allies! It’s nice to know that there are people all over this country working to counter the false and harmful message this kind of privacy shield sends. The store is working so hard to protect their “young shoppers” that they are forgetting about the very message of hate and shame that this action sends to those very same shoppers. In a time where LGBT youth are struggling with bullying and harassment in many of our nation’s schools actions like this embolden their harassers and push them further into the closet.

Read more about this tweet here and let us know what you think in the comments section.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

PFLAG Greater Boston is Moving Equality Forward with New Parental Notification Guidance

PFLAG Greater Boston is happy to share news of new guidance unveiled today by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) that will help enhance the state’s new Bullying Prevention Law. The new law, passed on May 3, 2010, requires notification of bullying to the parents of both the bully and the victim. This can be challenging in situations where the student is being bullied based on a sexual orientation that they have not yet disclosed to their parents. The new guidance provides background on this topic and suggestions of how school administrators can proceed in a sensitive manner. The document is a result of consultation between the Commissioner of Education and local LGBT groups including PFLAG Greater Boston. The goal is for the student to feel supported as the bullying situation is being addressed and that every effort is made to encourage family acceptance. A copy of the guidance can be found on the DESE website: www.doe.mass.edu/boe/docs/0111/item3_guidance.pdf

Great work President Stan Griffith and PFLAG Greater Boston!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Take Action - No Name Calling Week 2011

Imagine walking into a classroom, locker room or local hangout and being hit with words like “that’s so gay", stupid, no homo, ugly, fat, poor, retarded, fag or dyke. Those words certainly wouldn’t make you feel welcome, safe or secure. Unfortunately, many of our children are being bombarded with these words everyday. According to GLSEN’s 2009 School Climate Survey, 88.9% of students heard “gay” used in a negative way (e.g., “that’s so gay”) frequently or often at school, and 86.5% reported that they felt distressed to some degree by this language. As a former teacher, I can say that name calling has no place in our schools and these words have a lasting affect well into adulthood.


We must remember that ALL forms of name calling, not just against LGBTQ students, must not be tolerated, EVER! In this spirit, PFLAG National is proud to co-sponsor GLSEN’s eighth annual No Name-Calling Week, which takes place on January 24-28, 2011 in thousands of schools nationwide. To better support school communities to stop the name calling, GLSEN has free downloadable resources for students, families and teachers. My favorite are the free lesson plans for elementary, middle and high school teachers highlighting fun and exciting ways to empower students to end to name calling. You can even submit information about your No Name-Calling Week activities, project and events. I also encourage PFLAGers to share your stories with our National Office.


Another innovative aspect of the No Name-Calling Week is the Creative Expression Contest. The contest encourages elementary, middle and high school students to submit essays, poetry, music, original artwork, or other artwork that conveys their experiences and feelings about name-calling, and their ideas for putting a stop to verbal bullying in their schools and communities. This year they have added a new High School category to the contest for short-film submissions that focus on anti-LGBT name-calling and bullying in school. The goal is to have students working on their art pieces during the week as a way to learn about and deal with name-calling and bullying. For more information, entry form and contest guidelines, please visit http://www.nonamecallingweek.org/cgi-bin/iowa/all/news/record/57.html.


Please consider joining PFLAG National and students from across the country in making this annual event a huge success by participating in No Name-Calling Week today!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

PFLAG Remembers the Legacy of Former PFLAG National Vice President Carolyn Wagner


Sad news out of Tulsa with last night’s passing of Carolyn Wagner, former Vice-President of PFLAG National, and co-founder and vice-president of FUAH (Families United Against Hate). FUAH co-founder Gabi Clayton writes of Carolyn’s inspiring work.


Carolyn’s experience at age 12 with her father’s Klan activities motivated her early on to live a life in support and defense of others. Carolyn most recently discussed this childhood incident on MSNBC’s Obama’s America: 2010 and Beyond with Chris Matthews (Carolyn’s appearance at 14:00 in the video).


Carolyn is most well known for championing her son William’s Title IX rights after a violent anti-gay attack at his school left him with lasting injuries. Carolyn’s successful complaint to the Office for Civil Rights against the Fayetteville Arkansas School District was followed by a major win at the federal level, when the Supreme Court voted to uphold Title IX rights for students, regardless of gender, sexual orientation or gender identity.


Carolyn’s work with PFLAG included drafting and managing passage of PFLAG’s Trans-Inclusive Legislative Policy. Her tireless work on anti-bullying and anti-harassment campaigns in schools was a major inspiration for the PFLAG/GLSEN Claim Your Rights campaign.


PFLAG National President David Horowitz acknowledged Carolyn’s work, “Carolyn was a parent, activist, civil rights champion and PFLAG pioneer. Her legacy of social activism fueled by personal passion will continue to inspire all of us at PFLAG to work for justice and equality for all of our loved ones.”


A memorial service for Carolyn Wagner will be held at 2pm on Saturday, January 22nd at the Equality Center in Tulsa, OK


Equality Center

621 East 4th Street

Tulsa, OK 74103

Phone: (918) 743 4297

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

New Hospital Visitation Rules in Effect Today

From The Advocate:

New federal regulations that prohibit hospitals from discriminating against visitors based on sexual orientation and gender identity take effect today.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, “These new regulations require all hospitals participating in Medicaid and Medicare programs – virtually every hospital in the country – to permit patients to designate visitors of their choosing and prohibit discrimination in visitation based on a number of factors, including sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Last year, President Barack Obama announced the regulations in response to the tragic story of Janice Langbehn and Lisa Pond of Florida. The couple was kept apart while Lisa died at a Miami hospital.

PFLAG National is proud to support GLSEN’s Safe Schools Advocacy Summit 2011

On Sunday, March 27 through Tuesday, March 29 our friends at GLSEN will host the Safe Schools Advocacy Summit of 2011. The organization will train 40 students and adults from across the country through a series of workshops learning about safe schools legislation, advocacy and organizing skills, and strategies to continue to work for safe schools at the school, local, state and federal levels. On the final day of the Summit participants will go to Capitol Hill to lobby their representatives and senators about the importance of safe schools issues. If you are interested in taking advantage of this opportunity, we encourage you to check out the following website for more information and apply today - http://www.glsen.org/cgi-bin/iowa/all/news/record/2680.html!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Moving Equality Forward in 2011 and Beyond!

It’s been said that to know where you’re going, you’ve got to know where you’ve been – and as we kick off 2011, this is more true than ever.

As a movement of individuals committed to fairness and justice for all, we have so many things to be grateful for in 2010 –from the repeal of the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law to the creation of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention to focus on the needs of LGBT youth, to the State Department’s elimination of a surgery requirement to obtain the correct gender marker on a passport along with securing hospital visitation rights for LGBT families, we continue to make unprecedented breakthroughs that extend basic rights and protections to all of our LGBT family and friends.

Even with these successes, however, we must acknowledge the difficult obstacles ahead that must be overcome to ensure that our loved ones are treated with dignity and respect.

At the federal level, we continue to work to ensure that everyone has the right to a family, the opportunity to learn free from bullying and harassment, a job in a safe work environment, access to affordable and competent mental and physical health services, and protection from violence, harassment, and exploitation. In order to reach these goals we continue to advocate for the passage of bills like the Every Child Deserves a Family, Safe Schools Improvement, Student Non-Discrimination and Employment Non-Discrimination Acts.

We anticipate that many of these bills will continue to receive growing support thanks to your successful advocacy efforts in sending e-mails, making phone calls, in-person lobby visits in home districts, and constantly engaging your members of Congress on these important matters. This progress could not have been achieved without your committed voices.

And in 2011, as we enter a challenging political climate, we ask you to continue speaking out against discrimination and encouraging your federal, state and local legislators to support bills promoting LGBT equality, and to oppose any legislation that hurts our loved ones. The fight for equality will not be any easier in 2011 – and we need all of your help to challenge the homophobia and transphobia propagated by extremist groups like the National Organization for Marriage, the Family Research Council, and Focus on the Family.

As we begin to take on the challenges that lie ahead we will need your ongoing support throughout this journey to help move equality forward for all of our family and friends. In order to remain connected to the latest advocacy efforts, please be sure to sign up here to receive our action alerts, along with visiting our blog to stay abreast of the latest policy matters.

We wish you a Happy New Year and would like to thank you for your ongoing commitment to PFLAG!

Sincerely,
The PFLAG National Team

PFLAG National Scholarships - Apply Now!

PFLAG National is proud to announce its 2011 scholarship season is now open. To apply, simply visit our website at www.pflag.org/scholarships. LGBT students and student allies are encouraged to apply online, print supporting documentation and review the biographies of our 2010 scholarship recipients.

PFLAG National is dedicated to creating a world in which our young people may grow up and be educated free from the fear of violence, bullying and other forms of discrimination, regardless of their real or perceived gender identity or sexual orientation or that of their families and friends.
We ask that you please assist us in sharing the information about our scholarships with your community. Last year we received over 1,000 scholarship applicants and this year we anticipate even more interest, so please encourage students to apply early for this amazing opportunity.

ALL COMPLETED APPLICATIONS AND SUPPORTING DOCUMENTS MUST BE POSTMARKED BY FRIDAY, MARCH 11, 2011.

All 2011 scholarship applicants and winners will be notified by Friday, May 13th, 2011. The checks for the scholarship recipients will be disbursed in August 2011 and the checks will be sent directly to the school. For additional information, contact Mekina Morgan-Safe Schools and Diversity Outreach Coordinator at 202-467-8180, ext. 212 or mmorgan@pflag.org.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Policy Matters - 1/11/11

Front Page Headlines
Congress Gets Fourth Openly LGBT Representative. Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) was sworn in Wednesday, becoming the fourth openly LGBT member of the 112th Congress and only the seventh out LGBT person to serve in the House. He joins Reps. Barney Frank (D-MA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Jared Polis (D-CO), who were reelected in November. “I am thrilled to be the next congressman from Rhode Island’s First District and so grateful to the members of the LGBT community who supported my campaign,” Cicilline said. The former Providence mayor succeeds Rep. Patrick Kennedy, who retired. Cicilline earned the endorsement of many national LGBT organizations, including the Human Rights Campaign and the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund.

Expert Panel Publishes Recommendations to Prevent LGBT Suicide. A panel of 26 leading researchers, clinicians, educators and policy experts released a comprehensive report on the prevalence and underlying causes of suicidal behavior in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender adolescents and adults. The report will be published as the lead article in the January 2011 issue of the Journal of Homosexuality. The article is currently available online and will appear in print on Jan. 19. Titled “Suicide and Suicide Risk in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Populations: Review and Recommendations,” the report makes sweeping recommendations for closing knowledge gaps about suicidal behavior in LGBT people, and calls for making LGBT suicide prevention a national priority. Despite four decades of research pointing to elevated rates of suicide attempts among LGBT people, national suicide prevention initiatives, including the 2001 National Strategy for Suicide Prevention, have given little attention to suicide risk in LGBT individuals.

Media Matters launches a communications war room for LGBT equality. Last week, a liberal media watchdog group said it planned to announce on Monday that it was setting up a communications war room for LGBT equality in an effort to win one of the movement’s next and biggest battles: marriage equality. The new group, Equality Matters, grew out of Media Matters, an organization backed by wealthy liberal donors — including prominent LGBT philanthropists — that has staked its claim in Washington punditry with aggressive attacks on Fox News and conservative commentators like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck.

Public Policy Watch
President Obama Signs DADT Repeal. On December 22, 2010, President Obama signed the landmark repeal of the military's “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” law, handing a major victory to LGBT advocates and fulfilling a campaign promise to do away with a practice that he has called discriminatory. Casting the repeal in terms of past civil rights struggles, Obama said he was proud to sign a law that “will strengthen our national security and uphold the ideals that our fighting men and women risk their lives to defend.” The signing does not immediately implement the repeal but instead begins the process of ending the ban on lesbian, gay and bisexual service members serving openly in the military. The law will not actually change until the Pentagon certifies to Congress that the military has met several conditions, including education and training programs for the troops.

LGBT Youth Targeted for National Suicide Prevention Efforts. The National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention (NSSP) today added three new task forces to address suicide prevention efforts within high-risk populations, one of which included youth who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender (LGBT). In the coming months, the task force will identify and develop systems and strategies to improve data collection and surveillance of suicidal behaviors, prioritizing research on suicide prevention, and updating the NSSP. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, will provide support and technical expertise for the task forces and the Action Alliance, in cooperation with the private sector and other federal support.

New Jersey Governor Enacts Strongest Anti-Bullying Law. Governor Chris Christie has signed a bill that gives New Jersey the toughest anti-bullying law in the country. The “Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights” is intended to eliminate loopholes in the state’s first anti-bullying law, enacted in 2002, that encouraged school districts to set up programs to combat bullying but did not mandate it. The new law will require training for most public school teachers, administrators and other employees on how to spot bullying and mandate that all districts form a “school safety team” to review complaints. School districts would be graded by the state on their efforts to combat the problem. Administrators who do not investigate reported incidents of bullying would be disciplined, while students who bully could be suspended or expelled. School employees would also be required to report all incidents they learn of, whether they took place in or outside of school.

NC Trans Hospital Protections Effective. Equality North Carolina is praising new changes in North Carolina’s Hospital Patient’s Bill of Rights. The change, which took effect Jan. 1, prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity. The group had previously won changes to secure anti-discrimination measures on the basis of sexual orientation and visitation for same-sex couples. “The updated non-discrimination rule in the Patient’s Bill of Rights will help ensure that transgender patients know their rights and health care providers know they must provide the same level of care to all patients regardless of their gender identity,” said Ian Palmquist, Equality North Carolina’s executive director. The policy changes received unanimous approval from the Medical Care Commission and the Rules Review Commission.

Virginia Delegates Push Anti-Bullying Legislation. Two Northern Virginia Democrats are sponsoring legislation to attempt to curb teen bullying.Openly gay Del. Adam Ebbin (D-Arlington) is proposing a bill that would make egregious bullying a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to 1 year in jail and a $2,500 fine. Ebbin cited the case of York County high school student Christian Taylor, who died by suicide in May. Ebbin called it “outrageous” that bullying so severe as to contribute to a student’s suicide would not be criminal conduct. Del. David Englin (D-Alexandria) is sponsoring separate legislation that would require that teachers be trained in dealing with bullying, that they report bullying incidents to school authorities and mandate that they intervene when a student is being harassed. Englin’s bill defines bullying more broadly than Ebbin’s, calling it “verbal, physical or written conduct that creates a hostile environment that interferes with another student's education, physical or psychological well-being.”

Rhode Island Marriage Equality Bill Introduced. Last week, the drive to legalize marriage equality in Rhode Island began anew, with the re-introduction in the House of a bill to allow for same-sex nuptials. Lead sponsor, Rep. Arthur Handy (D-Cranston) said he hoped the bill’s early introduction would spark an early-session hearing and vote on the measure. Besides Handy, the other lead sponsors include Representatives Frank Ferri (D-Warwick), Edith Ajello (D-Providence), Deborah Ruggiero (D-Jamestown) and the openly gay House Speaker Gordon D. Fox, (D-Providence), who had said in the days leading up to the start of the 2011 General Assembly session that he hoped for a House vote on marriage equality early in the session, before the lawmakers get wrapped up in the budget and other issues.

New Mexico “Will Likely” Recognizes Out-of-State Same-Sex Marriages. Marriage equality advocates received some good news on last Tuesday as New Mexico Attorney General Gary King issued an opinion stating that same-sex marriages from out of state would likely be legal here. King came to this conclusion after “a comprehensive legal analysis” by his office which said that New Mexico can recognize same-sex marriages from states where it’s legal. “While we cannot predict how a New Mexico court would rule on this issue, after review of the law in this area, it is our opinion that a same-sex marriage that is valid under the laws of the country or state where it was consummated would likewise be found valid in New Mexico,” King said. While 40 states explicitly bar marriage equality, King says that New Mexico’s law does “not explicitly address the recognition of same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions,” according to the release announcing the opinion.

A Question from the Field
Dear Policy Matters,

Over the past few years our chapter has tried to slowly incorporate advocacy work into our chapter, but we are at a bit of an impasse over what we can and can’t do. There is concern over how we can talk about legislation and whether or not we can invite candidates to events. We are unsure, given PFLAG’s 501(c)3 status, what we are allowed to do and what might get us in trouble with the IRS. Can you offer us any assistance?

Sincerely,
Athena

Dear Athena,

Thank you for contacting Policy Matters. We are glad to hear that your chapter is taking some beginning steps to incorporate advocacy into your work. The general rule for advocacy is to focus on issues, not candidates. In other words, your chapter may advocate for or against a bill, law, or on a particular issue, but cannot endorse or oppose any candidate or political party. If you keep this rule of thumb in mind, you should be ok.

Also, please consider reviewing our new PFLAG Chapter Manual that was released this summer. The chapter manual has a section on education and advocacy (page 28) that includes suggestions of ways chapters can get involved and a list of do’s and don’ts for chapters when it comes to our 501(c)3 status. There are also some suggested chapter meeting activities that chapters can use as programs. Please contact your Field & Policy Coordinator to get an electronic copy of the PFLAG Chapter Manual.

Warmest Regards,
Policy Matters
P.S. Have you downloaded your new edition of Bringing the Message Home yet? Get your 2010 version of the how-to guide to PFLAG advocacy now and share it with your chapter. Visit. www.pflag.org/btmh for more information now.

Please note that Policy Matters will return on February 4th, 2011. If you would like to have a policy-related question featured in our next edition, please e-mail rperry@pflag.org with your question no later than January 28, 2011.

Giffords' Gay Intern: Why It Matters

Salon.com has a great piece on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords' intern, who happens to be gay and Hispanic. According to the article, "Daniel Hernandez helped save the congresswoman's life -- and yes, his sexuality and ethnicity matter."

Daniel Hernandez is, by any measure, an extraordinary young man. He had been interning in Gabrielle Giffords' office only five days when an event at a local Safeway thrust him into the international spotlight for his quick thinking, bravery and competence in the wake of unimaginable violence. On the "Today" show Monday, Matt Lauer explained how Hernandez drew upon his high school training as a certified nursing assistant to check on the pulses of other shooting victims before noticing the severity of Giffords' wounds and, as he puts it, prioritizing her. He put her upright and held her in his lap as he applied pressure to staunch the blood. "I could tell she had a severe gunshot," he said. "I just tried to do my best until emergency medical services could arrive. My focus was on making sure I was doing everything I could to take care of her." Even when the ambulance arrived, he stayed with her, because "I saw my job then as not taking care of her medical needs but taking care of her emotional needs. I tried to comfort her and make sure she knew she wasn't alone. I let her know I was going to try to contact her parents and her husband."

In the two days since the shooting, Hernandez has emerged in interviews as a graceful presence with a no doubt promising future, with considerably much more going for him than his status as a minority. So why should the sexual orientation of this eminently competent, compassionate person keep coming up in this tale? Why is his ethnicity, and the fact that he grew up speaking Spanish and attending dual language schools, of any consequence? Hernandez never asked to be the face of a movement. He doesn't represent any one group any more than Jared Lee Loughner is your typical white guy. And that's exactly why it matters.

It matters because guys like Arizona Sen. John McCain, who described the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" as "a very sad day," still think that orientation has an effect on whether or not a person can ably serve in the military. It matters because the notion that two people of the same sex can love each other and build a life together is still considered in many parts of the country, including Arizona, a threat to what is laughably referred to as "traditional marriage" -- as if heterosexuals have really mopped up the floor with this whole commitment thing. It matters because last week, when Arizona banned a Tucson district's Mexican-American studies program, state's Attorney General Tom Horne referred to it as "propagandizing and brainwashing." It matters because just last year Arizona enacted a law that would not merely allow but require immigration officials to determine the immigration status of anyone "where reasonable suspicion exists" that the person might be in the country illegally. And "reasonable suspicion," as many civil libertarians pointed out, might just boil down to having a darker shade of skin or speaking Spanish.

That's just Hernandez's home of Arizona. And though Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik scathingly referred to his state as "a mecca for racism and bigotry," violence, racism and bigotry aren't confined to any one ZIP code -- they exist all over this great land of ours. They exist just as surely as Hernandez shows that kindness and bravery are alive and well in Arizona.

It's still far too easy for a small-minded yahoo to champion discrimination based on orientation and race, and it's just as easy for another small-minded yahoo somewhere else to believe the red states are indeed "meccas of racism and bigotry." If any good can come out of something as unfathomably horrible as Saturday's mass shooting, let it be that it shakes up a few preconceptions. That it shows the world that a hero can be gay or straight, can speak English or Spanish or both, and that stupid laws can exist in places full of good people. And anyone who has any doubt of what kind of person deserves to serve next to him in battle, or stand before their community and declare their love, or go to school, or walk down the street without being asked for paperwork needs to hear that and remember that, again and again until it sinks in. Yes, the "gay Hispanic American" saved a life on Saturday, and yes, it does matter.

For this entire story, click here.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Garden State Rocks!

Being from New Jersey, I’ve become quite accustomed to getting teased. People have begged me to say “coffee” in their presence to hear my accent. I get asked what exit on the Turnpike I’m from (14C, if you must know). And with the unfortunate popularity of Jersey Shore, there is no end to the stereotypes.

But today, the Garden State gets to prove just how awesome it is—and it’s no joke.

Garden State Equality just sent out the news that NJ Governor Chris Christie has signed the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, which would give the state the nation’s toughest anti-bullying law.

The law mandates specific anti-bullying procedures for schools across the state, and requires that school personnel report incidents of bullying to principals on the same day as the incident happens. In turn, the school must launch an investigation of the situation within one day.

Other unique highlights include that the law is:
  • America's first anti-bullying law to provide for an anti-bullying coordinator in every district, and an anti-bullying specialist in every school to lead an anti-bullying team that also includes the principal, a teacher and a parent.
  • America's first anti-bullying law to grade every school on how well it is countering bullying – and to require that every school post its grade on the home page of its website. Also on the home page of its website, every school must post contact information for its anti-bullying specialist.
  • America's first anti-bullying law to provide training to teachers in suicide prevention specifically with regard to students from communities at high risk for suicide.
  • The law applies to extracurricular school-related settings, such as cyberbullying, school buses, school-sponsored functions and to bullying off school grounds that carries over into school.
  • The law requires a school to notify the parents of all students involved in an incident, including the parents of the bully and the bullied student, and offers counseling and intervention services.
  • The law mandates year-round anti-bullying instruction appropriate to each grade, and an annual Week of Respect in every school that will feature anti-bullying programming.
More info is available from our friends at Garden State Equality.

Congratulations to all of the people who were so committed to making this legislation into a reality for students in the state. We hope that we’ll see other states follow their lead.

So for now, let the Jersey jokes stop and let the celebration begin. But first, I’ve got to work on my big hair and listen to some Bon Jovi.