LGBT Bullying: Why Does Rep. Sue Allen Oppose Specific Protections for Gay Students?

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Rep. Sue Allen. - VIA
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  • Rep. Sue Allen.

An anti-bullying bill at the Missouri legislature has died -- and Representative Sue Allen, the sponsor of the proposal, is now casting blame on openly gay lawmakers.

At the center of the fight is a debate around specified protections for LGBT students, which Allen opposes. "These are people who think everything is about that issue," Allen, a Republican, tells Daily RFT, referring to LGBT issues. "Because they want sexual orientation added, they are keeping all children from being protected."

LGBT advocates and lawmakers -- who want schools to have the opportunity to outline protections for gay students in their policies -- see it very differently and argue that Allen's stubbornness on this is offensive and backwards.

House Bill 134, Allen's proposal, would mandate that every district adopt an anti-bullying policy and would establish some required components, including a statement prohibiting bullying, a requirement for employees to report bullying, a procedure for reporting and investigating accusations -- and more.

On the face of it, the proposal seems fairly non-controversial, but one part of the bill has, it seems, derailed the whole thing:

Policies shall treat all students equally and shall not contain specific lists of protected classes of students who are to receive special treatment.

Critics of the proposal say this is effectively a blanket ban on any policies specifying protections for LGBT students, who, studies show, frequently face bullying in Missouri schools.

State Senator Jolie Justus. - VIA
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  • State Senator Jolie Justus.

Specifications in school policies, formally known as "enumerated categories," are proven to help reduce LGBT discrimination, advocates say.

"She's blocking her own legislation to make a point about not protecting LGBT kids," State Senator Jolie Justus, a Kansas City Democrat, who is openly gay, tells Daily RFT.

Allen, however, blames Justus -- and mentiones Rep. Mike Colona, who is also openly gay -- in a recent newsletter lamenting the death of her bill.

Allen writes:

I typically try to keep partisanship out of my message, but this is an issue for the Democrats who wish for certain students (GLBT -gay, lesbian, bisexual, & transgender) to be "enumerated" within school policies.

Our Republican majority did pass two versions of HB 134 three times in the House in spite of the more liberal House members. However, a Kansas City Senator (Senator Justus) threatened to filibuster all bills in the Senate which contained the language of HB 134, so our students lose again.

What "they" don't seem to understand is that any stronger policies help ALL students, even those they would have categorized.

So....it seems some people care more about arguing points to make some students more protected when what they've really done is to NO better protect ANY student.

Justus points out that she and other opponents of the bill simply want local school districts to have the option of specifying LGBT students in their policies and that the bill as written, forbids them.

"The state...should leave it up to local school boards," Justus says.

And these kinds of enumerations for LGBT students can be important, she adds.

"Sometimes, educators and administrators have never dealt with [bullying of LGBT students]," she says. "Studies show enumerated categories help...so they can make important decisions about how to proceed."

She adds of Allen's newsletter, "She specifically targeted...two openly gay legislators, because we wanted to protect local control.... To me, that's bullying in its own right."

Continue for our interview with Rep. Sue Allen.

Allen tells us that it would be discriminatory to specify certain groups of students in a policy -- and not others -- and says that these opponents have blocked a bill that would help all students, including LGBT ones.

"If these kids are bullied more and more and more, they're the ones that are going to benefit," she says of her bill. "A lot of the kids who will end up identifying themselves as gay or lesbian...they could be protected."

Gay rights group posted this today criticizing Allen's comments. - VIA FACEBOOK / PROMO
  • via Facebook / PROMO
  • Gay rights group posted this today criticizing Allen's comments.

She continues, "The whole message is being manipulated."

Allen says that there are all kinds of bullying in schools. "Many hundreds of kids could be bullied for many reasons other than sexual orientation."

"Why are we always segregating?" she says.

This is the third year she's carried the bill -- and she says she will probably try again next time around.

PROMO, the statewide gay rights group, also fired off a statement in response to Allen, saying, "She singles out and takes issue with the two out members of the legislature for doing something notable -- trying to protect LGBT youth."

Here's Allen's newsletter in full, followed by the PROMO news release and a copy of the bill.

The Status Quo and Ideology Bully/ Anti-Bullying Legislation

This session was the third year I have carried a bill (this year was HB 134) to help schools address the issue of bullying and cyber-bullying. Again, for the third time, we had much debate and disagreement about school districts being able to, in their school policies, recognize certain "categories" of students as being more precious than other children.

I typically try to keep partisanship out of my message, but this is an issue for the Democrats who wish for certain students (GLBT -gay, lesbian, bisexual, & transgender) to be "enumerated" within school policies.

Our Republican majority did pass two versions of HB 134 three times in the House in spite of the more liberal House members. However, a Kansas City Senator (Senator Justus) threatened to filibuster all bills in the Senate which contained the language of HB 134, so our students lose again.

What "they" don't seem to understand is that any stronger policies help ALL students, even those they would have categorized.

So....it seems some people care more about arguing points to make some students more protected when what they've really done is to NO better protect ANY student.

What a pity! Missouri School Children lose again!

If you are as concerned as I am about the safety of our children, I recommend that you contact your state senators and representatives.

In particular, I would recommend that you contact Senator Jolie Justus at jolie.justus@senate.mo.gov.

Also, Representative Mike Colona would be happy to receive your emails. He can reached at mike.colona@house.mo.gov.

From PROMO:

Dear Equality Supporter; Yesterday Rep. Sue Allen sent out this email regarding her bullying bill: Unfortunately, there are quite a few problems - and inaccuracies - in her statement: She singles out and takes issue with the two out members of the legislature for doing something notable - trying to protect LGBT youth. Interestingly, she doesn't say WHY you should call Rep. Colona. Perhaps it is because he is the ONLY out Rep in the Missouri House?

Rep. Allen also neglects to inform the reader about the provisions of her own bill. While it does mandate training requirements for teachers and administrators and adds a definition of cyber-bulling, she doesn't mention that she wants to continue a ban on requiring that school officials find out what groups of students are most often targeted for bullying (we call these enumerated categories). It's ironic that, Rep. Allen - from the party of local control - wants to FORBID school districts from choosing to make their own policy with regards to protecting students by listing those individuals and characteristics most often bullied.

Please give Rep. Allen a call (573-751-9765) or email (Sue.Allen@house.mo.gov) and tell her to lift the ban on protecting LGBT youth!

Rep. Allen also doesn't disclose that this bill was originally crafted by former State Senator Jane Cunningham, who has a rather notorious past of treating LGBT youth disrespectfully and is the reason why an enumeration ban currently exists in state statute.

Rep. Allen implies, rather divisively, that the comprehensive anti-bullying legislation that she opposes would only apply to "certain students (GLBT -gay, lesbian, bisexual, & transgender) to be 'enumerated' within school policies" when in fact such legislation is intended to address bullying also on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity, gender, physical appearance, disability, and other categories where children endure bullying more frequently.

When asked directly why she won't support enumerated categories, Rep. Allen will state it is because she wants to protect ALL students. That sounds noble, but year over year, discrimination happens and the burden of case law shows that protected categories do actually reduce discrimination. The ban on enumerations has been in place since 2006 and the statistics on LGBT youth bullying are only getting worse.

And let's not forget that, while Rep. Allen claims to want to protect all students, we know her colleagues often times want to deny the very existence of LGBT youth.

Please give Rep. Allen a call (573-751-9765) or email (Sue.Allen@house.mo.gov) and tell her to lift the ban on protecting LGBT youth!

The bill:

House Bill 134

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin.

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