The Louisiana House Education Committee is set to consider a bill that would expand the reach of the state's anti-bullying law as it applies to public schools and students. House Bill 112, by Rep. Austin Badon, D-New Orleans, will be heard in the committee, which Badon chairs, on Thursday, May 12.
The current state law against public school-related bullying specifically exempts six parishes — East Baton Rouge, Livingston, East Feliciana, West Feliciana, St. Helena and Tangipahoa. Those parishes rank among the most conservative in the state.
Current law also does not expressly protect students from bullying based on race, color or sexual orientation. The existing law merely defines harassment, intimidation and bullying in general terms.
Badon's bill would remove the exceptions and make the law applicable statewide. It also would define harassment, intimidation and bullying to include "any gesture or written, verbal or physical act by a student directed at another student ... that is reasonably perceived as being motivated by any actual or perceived characteristic, such as race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or expression, physical characteristic, political persuasion, mental disability or physical disability, as well as attire or association with others identified by such categories."
Supporters of the bill are bracing for opposition from conservatives based on the protections extended to students in terms of sexual orientation and gender identification or expression. — Clancy DuBos