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Va. lawmakers introduce anti-bullying bills

Ebbin, Englin plan legislation to toughen state’s existing laws

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Two members of the Virginia House of Delegates — one gay, one a straight ally — have introduced two anti-bullying bills that, if successful, will be major accomplishments in the coming legislative session considering how difficult activists and elected officials there have found getting pro-LGBT legislation passed.

Del. Adam Ebbin, who represents Virginia’s 49th House District, which includes parts of Arlington County, Alexandria and Fairfax County, has introduced legislation that would make bullying a class one misdemeanor, give victims the right to sue bullies who are sanctioned or found guilty, provide for expulsions for bullies and require that any bullying that causes injury be reported to the state’s attorney. Ebbin is the only openly gay member of the House of Delegates.

Del. David Englin, who represents the state’s 45th House District which includes parts of Arlington and Fairfax counties and Alexandria, has introduced the “Anti-Bullying Responsibility Act,” which would add specificity to the codes of student conduct already required of state school districts, require schools to have procedures in place to separate victims from bullies, make bullying intervention a requirement for teachers, require incidents to be reported to superintendents and hold administrators responsible for their local policies.

“No child should be afraid to go to school and every child has a right to a safe learning environment,” Ebbin said. “We need to make sure that school is a safe environment for all our children.”

Forty-seven states have anti-bullying laws in place and 35 states have taken action against cyber bullying, including Virginia. Ebbin said these new laws, if passed, would “add teeth” to existing laws.

Englin’s bill, for instance, adds sexual orientation and gender identity to the definition of bullying even though some districts, such as his, already have that specified. He said having those areas identified is important because in some parts of the state, educators don’t take anti-gay bullying seriously.

“Even some teachers have been known to use anti-gay epithets in class,” Englin said. “This law would make it so that even in areas where there isn’t a strong policy that makes it clear that’s not OK, this would.”

Ebbin said he was inspired to introduce the legislation in part because of the late Christian Taylor, a 16-year-old freshman at Grafton High School in Yorktown, Va., who committed suicide last May after enduring months of bullying. He hung himself in his bedroom. His mother told reporters they had reported the bullying to school administrators and police but nothing was done. Police said they looked into the situation but turned it over to the school when they determined no crime had been committed.

Ebbin said one bully told Taylor, “you need to just go commit suicide and get it over with.”

Englin admitted, considering Virginia’s poor track record of passing LGBT-friendly laws, the sexual orientation and gender identity provisions in his bill could hinder it but he said it’s still important to try to get it passed that way.

Equality Virginia, of course, supports the legislation but said its staff and lobbyists have yet to finalize their legislative priorities for the year. The board of its lobbying arm is meeting this weekend to decide its members’ goals.

“We haven’t finalized anything but obviously a law protecting LGBT employees based on sexual orientation and gender identity has been on the top of our wish list for about three years,” said James Parrish, the organization’s deputy director.

Parrish also said provisions for partners of gay state employees and having sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes in the state’s human rights act will likely top the organization’s “wish list.”

And if Del. Bob Marshall introduces a bill — which he said he’s drafting — to ban gays from serving in the Virginia National Guard, Parrish said defeating it would be among his group’s top goals.

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Samuel Croft

    January 5, 2011 at 5:45 pm

    As well they should and the punishment should be severe!

  2. stanJames

    January 5, 2011 at 10:33 pm

    Unforutnately fat chance given the superhomophobic AG and I think also governor there.

    to them . christianity justifies inducing the suicide based murders of 3000 gay kids per year.

    We are fighting the wrong war on terrorism

  3. Judge Tom

    January 6, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    After 23 years in juvenile court, I believe that teenagers often learn from the experiences of their peers, not just from being lectured by those in authority. Consequently, “Teen Cyberbullying Investigated” was published in January, 2010.

    Endorsed by Dr. Phil [“Bullied to Death”], “Teen Cyberbullying Investigated” presents real cases of teens in trouble over their online and cell phone activities. Civil & criminal sanctions have been imposed on teens over their emails, blogs, text messages, Facebook and YouTube entries and more. TCI is interactive and promotes education & awareness so that our youth will begin to “Think B4 U Click.”

    Thanks for looking at “Teen Cyberbullying Investigated” on http://www.freespirit.com [publisher] or on http://www.askthejudge.info [a free website for & about teens and the law].

    Regards, -Judge Tom

  4. Gabriella

    January 7, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    “real cases of teens in trouble over their online and cell phone activities”

    This is one of the bigger reasons to be afraid of children being bullied. It is important to teach our children (and everyone for that matter) the importance of accepting people the way they are… period!

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Comings & Goings

Nathanson takes role at Outright Action

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Rikki Nathanson

The Comings & Goings column is about sharing the professional successes of our community. We want to recognize those landing new jobs, new clients for their business, joining boards of organizations and other achievements. Please share your successes with us at: [email protected] 

The Comings & Goings column also invites LGBTQ+ college students to share their successes with us. If you have been elected to a student government position, gotten an exciting internship, or are graduating and beginning your career with a great job, let us know so we can share your success. 

Congratulations to Rikki Nathanson on her new position as Senior Advisor – Global Trans Program with OutRight Action International in New York. Nathanson will be based in D.C.  

 “I am absolutely thrilled to be taking on this new role as Senior Advisor in OutRight’s Global Trans Program,” said Nathanson. “I have finally found the perfect fit for me: as a trans woman who has been fighting for equality not only for myself, but for others globally, this position is not only a job, it’s intrinsically part of who I am. So, what better way to live, nurture and grow myself.” 

Nathanson will be working closely with all program staff to ensure a cohesive and intentional approach to gender issues throughout OutRight’s programs, including its approach to gender ideology movements. She will lead new initiatives on gender advocacy and policy change, focused but not limited to legal gender recognition and anti-discrimination legislation and policies.

Prior to this Nathanson was director of housing programs at Casa Ruby in D.C. She has also held a number of other positions including: founder/executive director of Trans Research, Education, Advocacy & Training (TREAT), Zimbabwe; chairperson Southern Africa Trans Forum, SATF, Cape Town, South Africa; executive director, Ricochet Modeling Agency, Zimbabwe; and company secretary for Dunlop Zimbabwe Limited, Zimbabwe. 

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SMYAL Director Shakir to step down Dec. 31

Board to launch Executive Search beginning in January

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SMYAL Executive Director Sultan Shakir addresses the crowd at the 2021 Fall Brunch. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Sultan Shakir, who has served as executive director of D.C.’s LGBTQ youth advocacy organization SMYAL since August 2014, announced on Friday that he will be stepping down from his position effective Dec. 31.

In a Dec. 3 announcement, SMYAL said details of Shakir’s future career plans would be announced in the coming weeks.

“While we are sad to see Sultan leave, we wish him nothing but the same success in his new endeavor as he had at SMYAL,” said Rob Cogorno, SMYAL’s board chair. “His leadership and vision enabled SMYAL to expand greatly needed services to LGBTQ youth in the DC metro area throughout his tenure,” Cogorno said.

“I am immensely proud of the work we have been able to accomplish together in my time at SMYAL,” Shakir said in a statement released by SMYAL. “SMYAL has been an integral and vital resource in the DMV community for over 37 years, and while we have come a long way in combating homophobia, transphobia, racism, sexual health stigma, homelessness, violence against the LGBTQ community, and oppression, we have a long way to go,” he said.

“This work has never been about one person,” said Shakir. “SMYAL was founded by our community and we’re still around because of our community,” he said. “I leave knowing that the commitment and passion of the SMYAL Board, staff, volunteers, and youth leaders have created a solid foundation from which our work will continue to grow until LGBTQ youth no longer need us.”

The SMYAL statement says that under Shakir’s tenure, SMYAL, which stands for Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders, expanded its programs and services for LGBTQ youth. Among other things, in 2017 SMYAL opened its first of several housing facilities for homeless LGBTQ youth that include culturally competent case management, education and employment assistance.

“The Youth Housing Program now comprises five programmatic models that serve a combined 61 youth residents,” the statement says.

It points out that also under Shakir’s leadership, SMYAL expanded the age range of the youth its programs serve under a new Little SMYALs program, which welcomes LGBTQ youth ages 6-12. And earlier in 2021 under Shakir’s guidance, SMYAL began a new Clinical Services Department “which provides affirming and accessible mental health counseling,” the statement says.

“The SMYAL Board of Directors will officially launch an Executive Search beginning in January 2022 and expects to have named a new Executive Director by summer 2022,” the statement says. It says the board will soon name an interim executive director to work with SMYAL’s Deputy Executive Director, Jorge Membreno, and the organization’s leadership team to oversee the day-to-day activities until a new executive director is named.

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Rainbow History Project to honor LGBTQ ‘Pioneers’

Virtual celebration to take place on Dec. 9

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David Mariner, gay news, Washington Blade
David Mariner (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

D.C.’s Rainbow History Project says it will honor and recognize 12 individuals and one organization by designating them as Community Pioneers “for their diverse contributions to the Washington-area LGBTQ community” at a Dec. 9 virtual celebration.

“Rainbow History Project is an all-volunteer organization dedicated to collecting, preserving and sharing the LGBT history of metropolitan Washington, D.C.,” the group says in a statement announcing the event. “The Pioneers awards recognize diverse community leaders for their roles as organizational founders, innovators, advocates and volunteers,” the statement says.

“The Pioneers celebration will be held virtually and is designed with special features that reproduce the feeling of attending in-person, such as live streaming and video chatting with other attendees and Pioneers before and after the core awards programing,” according to the statement.

“Celebrating our Community Pioneers has been a cherished tradition since Rainbow History Project’s founding 21 years ago,” said Rob Berger, the organization’s chairperson. “It’s always an inspiring event, and we are happy that our virtual platform will still allow participants to meet and talk with the Pioneers,” Berger said in the statement.

The virtual event is free and open to the public, the statement says. Organizers released this link for those interested in attending, saying a short registration process may require registering in advance. 

Remo Conference

Following is the list of Community Pioneers scheduled to be honored at the Dec. 9 event as released by Rainbow History Project along with the project’s description of their backgrounds.

Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance, a local group that since its founding has addressed equal rights issues for LGBTQ Virginians from a state and local perspective.

– Eboné F. Bell, founder and editor-in-chief of Tagg Magazine and Tagg Communication LLC.

Bart Forbes, founding member of “Gay Fairfax,” a pioneering television newsmagazine program in Northern Virginia.

– Ellen Kahan, youth and family advocate, president of Rainbow Families, former director of the Lesbian Services Program at Whitman-Walker Health, and currently senior director of programs and partnerships at the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.

– Theodore Kirkland (deceased), a co-founder of D.C. Black Pride in 1991, member of the Gay Liberation Front and Skyline Faggots, active community health volunteer and advocate.

– Paul Marengo, community leader through LGBTQ organizations including Reel Affirmations, Cherry Fund, and Pride celebrations for youth, Latino, Black and Transgender communities.

– David Mariner, executive director of CAMP Rehoboth, and former executive director of the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community.

– Mark Meinke founder longtime chair, Rainbow History Project, and co-founder of Rainbow Heritage Network, a national organization for the recognition and preservation of sites, history and heritage associated with sexual and gender minorities.

– Michael “Micci” Sainte Andress, artist, health educator and advocate and an early leader in bringing African Americans into HIV/AIDS clinical trials.

– Boden Sandstrom, founder and owner of Woman Sound (later City Sound), the first all-woman sound company, which makes LGBTQ rights rallies and the women’s music scene possible.

Casse Culver (deceased), nationally acclaimed D.C. lesbian feminist singer-songwriter, and partner of Boden Sandstrom, whose followers said her love songs and feminist lyrics moved audiences from foot stomping to silent reflection.  

Alan Sharpe, playwright, director and co-founder of the African American Collective Theater in Washington, D.C., in 1976, which now focuses on LGBTQ life and culture in the Black community.

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