Coleman, Thompson, and Ellis: A Texas Hall of Fame for the Fourth

Three reasons to face the Fourth with hope:

PRESS RELEASE
June 29, 2005

Coleman Fights to Protect Gay and Lesbian Students During Special Session: Passes amendment on bullying, re-files Dignity for All Students Act

AUSTIN, TX – Against the backdrop of a special session of the Texas Legislature to overhaul the way in which Texas funds public schools, Representative Garnet Coleman (D-Houston) has taken two extremely important steps that could reform Texas public schools to ensure the safety of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth.

Last night, during a long and intense debate on HB 2–a bill to overhaul the funding and programming of Texas public schools–Representative Coleman successfully added an amendment that will shed light on the bullying and discrimination that takes place everyday in our schools. The amendment, crafted by Randall Ellis (former Executive Director of the Lesbian/Gay Rights Lobby of Texas), would require the Texas Education Agency to collect data on the reasons for and frequency of bullying and discrimination in our public schools. The results of this report will help educators and policymakers create positive environments and ensure that all schools are places where students are free to learn, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/_expression.

“Governor Perry has called us back to Austin to fix some of the fundamental ways we fund and educate our Texas youth,” stated Representative Coleman. “During this important debate, we must remember that every Texas student has the right to a public education. When students are discriminated against in school, and the school does nothing about it, we are failing them in a very fundamental way. This amendment will give lawmakers the necessary information to better understand and address the issue of bullying and discrimination against LGBT youth in our public schools”

A separate bill filed by Representative Coleman, HB 60, would go one step further. The Dignity for All Students Act would protect students from bullying and discrimination based on the ethnicity, color, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, religion, or national origin of the student or the student’s parent in Texas public schools.

The Dignity for All Students Act is seemingly a nonpartisan issue: it protects gay kids from being harassed in public schools. Representative Coleman filed the bill in response to the fact that no state or federal law extends protections to LGBT youth in Texas public schools. A national study done by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, or GLSEN, indicates 84% of LGBT youth in public schools reported regularly experiencing homophobic harassment, while 82.9% of LGBT students report that faculty or staff never intervened or intervened only some of the time when present and homophobic harassment takes place.

“Instead of addressing the real problems of our state during our regular session, Governor Perry chose to hide behind an amendment to the Texas Constitution banning the recognition of same-sex marriages,” continued Representative Coleman. “I will not tolerate politics based on fear and prejudice, and I will continue to fight for all Texas youth. I want to send a message loud and strong across Texas. No type of discrimination will be tolerated in this state.”

Rep. Coleman represents District 147 in Houston and is the Chair of the Legislative Study Group (LSG).

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See Also: PinkDome’s posting of Rep. Senfronia Thompson’s defense of civil rights for gay and lesbian Texans.

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And while we’re waxing nostalgic for Texas Civil Rights highlights this Fourth of July, don’t forget Sen. Rodney Ellis who brought a catheter to his planned filibuster of Republican-led efforts to imposed voter ID restrictions. This clip from Dos Centavos.

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