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Backpack YouthOn Wednesday, the Hawaii Education Committees in both the House and the Senate held hearings on the Safe Schools for All Students Act. Senior Legislative Counsel Alison Gill submitted testimony in support of the bill on behalf of HRC. If passed, this bill would require state youth-serving agencies and grantees in Hawaii to adopt inclusive bullying prevention policies and would establish a task force to assist the Governor with bullying prevention in the State. There was a number of organizations supporting the bill, and the Senate committee passed a version of the Act. The House committee has defered action until next week. 

“The passage of this anti-bullying legislation is critical to ensure the safety and well-being young people in Hawaii. Bullying and harassment has become a serious public health crisis in our nation’s schools,” Gill testified. “In Hawaii in 2013, nearly 19 percent (one in five) of students reported being bullied on school property and more than 15 percent reported experiencing cyberbullying.”

The bill would cover creation of a hostile environment and other forms of bullying and cyberbullying. It also amends the Hawaii Human Rights Act to ensure that students have non-discrimination protections based on characteristics including sexual orientation and gender identity. The bill is more comprehensive than most anti-bullying bills in that it not only covers schools and charter schools, but it also covers other environments where youth may face bullying and harassment, such as parks, libraries, and shelters.

HRC supports safe schools legislation that protects vulnerble young people. HRC’s groundbreaking report, Growing Up LGBT in America, found that LGBT youth face disparate health risks and are often disconnected from their schools and communities. Still, LGBT youth also demonstrate resilience in facing today’s challenges and express optimism about tomorrow’s possibilities.

HRC urges lawmakers in Hawaii to stand in support of LGBT youth and to swiftly pass the Safe Schools for All Students Act.

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