Volume 77 / Number 39 - Feb. 27 - March 04, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933


Anti-bullying efforts still urgently needed

As the recent tragic shooting death of Lawrence King, a gay 15-year-old in a Southern California school, makes clear, political leaders and education officials have considerable unfinished business when it comes to protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth and others stigmatized by hatred, prejudice and ridicule.

It’s shocking that, in an era when crimes like King’s murder continue to occur, neither New York City nor New York State has implemented a comprehensive program to combat bias-motivated harassment, bullying and violence in public schools.

In Albany, the problem remains the intransigence of state Senate Republican leaders against accepting gender identity and expression as legitimate grounds for offering specific protections, despite the fact that transgendered and gender-variant young people are among the most vulnerable groups in our society.

King occasionally wore high heels and women’s clothing. His killer, a student a year younger than him, shot him execution style in the back of the head.

As we move toward elections this November, the Democrats, who are hoping to win control of the state Senate, must pressure Majority Leader Joe Bruno and his G.O.P. allies into finally taking action on the Dignity for All Students Act, or DASA.

It is impossible to fathom how any responsible public official can resist any reasonable steps to protect our young people from violence and harm.

Yet resistance is absolutely the posture that Mayor Michael Bloomberg has adopted in response to a version of DASA that several years ago was enacted by the City Council over his veto. Unfortunately, a ruling by the state’s highest court in early 2006 significantly curbed the Council’s power to bring into law this sort of measure in the face of a mayoral veto. Ironically, that ruling was on the issue of requiring companies doing business with the city to offer their gay employees domestic-partner benefits. Council Speaker Christine Quinn, a longtime champion of the city version of DASA, has no easy legal recourse to force Bloomberg to implement the law.

Instead, Quinn’s office has worked with both the city’s schools chancellor and the Staten Island borough president to launch pilot programs to combat bullying and encourage tolerance and respect in the schools. Yet the speaker has conceded that the number of school officials brought into the fold on these efforts has to date been small.

We well understand the constraints Quinn has operated under since the adverse high court ruling two years ago, and we encourage advocates of safe schools to chip in to help grow the initiatives now underway.

But as the speaker considers the possibility of a mayoral run in 2009, we urge her to make school safety and the welfare of vulnerable populations — L.G.B.T. and questioning youth, the disabled, immigrant students and others who find themselves on the outside — central themes in her campaign. It is the least we owe our youth.

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