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Posted: 4/18/2006 9:07:28 PM EST
protestors want affirmative action "bully" laws?

Protesters call anti-bullying bill `vague,' say minorities aren't protected
Karla D. Shores
South Florida Sun-Sentinel Education Writer
April 18 2006

Human rights supporters rallied against what they called a "vague" anti-bullying bill Monday afternoon, claiming the legislation leaves the most vulnerable students, such as gays and minorities, unprotected.

Protesters said the proposed legislation, written by Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, fails to specifically ban bullying based on race, ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or physical ability or appearance. They asked constituents to demand Bogdanoff make changes to reflect minority groups.

"Right now we have a bill that would undo decades of work to make students safe by repealing all the strongest anti-harassment policies we have in Florida schools," said gay activist Stratton Pollitzer, addressing about 45 people in front of Broward schools offices in downtown Fort Lauderdale. "It would seem seductively simple to say `all students,' but it doesn't get the job done. There are certain forms of harassment that are considered acceptable."

Pollitzer, director of Equality Florida South Florida, said the bill would also weaken current anti-discrimination policies in place in Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade county school districts.

Bogdanoff, reached in her Tallahassee office, said she would not use selective language to define who should be protected because she does not want to uphold the safety of one child over another.

"They are saying there are certain children who deserve more protection than others," said Bogdanoff. "I want to protect all children."

Bogdanoff called protesters of the bill "misinformed" and said the only change she would make might be to clarify that her bill does not preclude school districts from creating a separate discrimination policy.

School Board members and representatives from the Democratic Black Caucus, the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Organization of Women, and the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network, also attended the rally.

Bogdanoff's proposed legislation, House Bill 535, could be in front of the Education Council today. That is the last stop before the bill is introduced to the floor.
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