Battling Bullying: Controversy over proposed policy changes

Local News

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – The Utah State Board of Education wants to gut the substance of the Anti-Bullying Policy, according to critics.

Advocacy groups tell ABC4 News that the proposed changes to the bullying policy includes the elimination of civil rights violations, portions of training on bullying for educators and reporting requirements.

Troy Williams, the Executive Director for Equality Utah, says these changes also eliminate protections to LGBTQ students.

“When this proposal was introduced, parents of LGBT kids started contacting us very concerned at the consequences. We know that that LGBT kids, that kids of color, are often targeted for being different,” he said. “We want to make sure we give the teachers all the tools they need to protect every student, regardless if their race, religion, sexual orientation or their gender identity.”

“We understand that concern,” Mark Peterson, Public Relations Director, Utah State Board of Education, told ABC4 News. “What is not being added on to that, is that this is to come back as two rules, not just one.”

According to Peterson, the idea is to separate bullying, which can apply to almost anything: size, shape, acne, the way one throws a baseball, etc., from bullying dealing with protected classes: age, gender, race, etc.

One policy would fall under federal guidelines and the other will better match state guidelines, a request that came from the Legislative Administrative Rules Committee.

“I know what it’s like to be bullied for being gay. I was all my entire life and it’s brutal. We know the impact of increased depression, increase isolation, those are the dangers. Those are the factors that lead a young person to contemplate suicide. So it’s our responsibility as adults to do everything we can do to protect these kids. This new proposal goes the exact wrong direction. This new proposal will endanger youth,” Williams explained.

“Please let the process play out. Please look at what comes up in our February meeting. If it’s still a problem after you’ve read the rule, come to our meeting and let the board know,” Peterson said.

Utahns can voice their opinions at the next board meetings in February and March. For the meeting schedule, click here.

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