Timothy Kincaid posted the link to this Anderson Cooper 360 segment on bullying prevention. Here is Candi Cushman and Eliza Byard discussing bullying policy along with author Rosalind Wiseman.
In the past I have favored laws which do not enumerate traits (e.g., race, religion, sexual orientation) because the context of bullying can be so diverse that a category could be left out (e.g., gifted kids). However, I think that enumerated laws are better than no laws at all and certainly understand advocates who believe listing is the way to go. I do favor numeration of categories for statistical purposes as bullying prevention programs are implemented. This approach provides a way to know where the problems are and if a district is improving.
Furthermore, I think implementation of bullying prevention often requires directly addressing various social issues, such as race and sexual orientation. If the school-wide assessment finds that gays are being harassed and disrespected, then you have to address the worth and dignity of sexual minorities. Wiseman and Byard are correct to note that silence on the issue sends a loud message – some disrespect is ok, while other disrespect will not be tolerated. Simply saying, ‘all people deserve respect and a safe learning environment’ is not enough and often does not generalize. Human nature being what it is, it is easy to allow bias to convince us that our prejudices are ok, as long as we don’t generalize them. Where a problem exists, it has to be named.
At the same time, I do think that school personnel have a responsibility to avoid stigmatizing religious people who do not approve of homosexuality. This is a difficult challenge and one which mirrors the problem we have finding ways to live together in a society polarized over many issues. However, we have to try.