To the Editor:
Your article “Texas Quits Group Amid Debate Over Gays” (Dec. 14, 2005) shows how the Texas state school board is missing a crucial point in the debate over how schools can best protect students from bullying and harassment. Regardless of one’s political viewpoint, the facts are clear: Schools with inclusive anti-harassment policies (those that enumerate classes like religion and sexual orientation) have less of a problem with bullying and harassment than those that don’t.
The new report “From Teasing to Torment: School Climate in America,” based on polling data from more than 3,000 high school students and 1,000 secondary school teachers in a survey conducted by Harris Interactive Inc., found that students who attend schools without fully inclusive anti-harassment policies (lacking categories such as sexual orientation) are one-third more likely to report that harassment and bullying are serious problems in their schools (44 percent vs. 33 percent, respectively). Harassment other than that motivated by real or perceived sexual orientation, including harassment motivated by appearance, ability, and class, is lower in schools with inclusive policies.
Policymaking should be driven by what works, not by political beliefs or personal biases. The Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, or GLSEN, agrees with Texas state board member Terri Leo, who is quoted in the article as saying, “Bullying is wrong, period.” If she is serious about that commitment, she should reconsider her opposition to policies that enumerate categories like race, religion, and sexual orientation.
Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network
New York, N.Y.