A proposed anti-bullying policy for West Virginia schools acknowledges for the first time that sexual orientation and gender identity are common reasons for harassment.
The Department of Education took public comments about the 75-page student conduct and disciplinary policy, and the assistant state superintendent was expected to lay out the policy for the board in Charleston. A vote is set for December 14. If approved, the changes that acknowledge the targeting of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students would go into effect July 1, 2012.
The draft policy enumerates 12 possible reasons a child could be bullied. They include race, color, religion, gender, ancestry, national origin, socioeconomic status, academic status, physical appearance, and mental, physical, or developmental disability.
The policy also covers gender identity or expression, as well as sexual orientation.
Under the proposal, bullying for the specified reasons or any “other characteristic” would be a Level 3 disciplinary offense. Punishments range from as little as before- or after-school detention or a one-day removal from the classroom to weekend detention or suspension for up to 10 days.
The policy also extends beyond school property to the virtual world, holding students accountable for “vulgar or offensive speech” online if it disrupts the learning atmosphere at school. —AP