CLEVELAND - On February 2, 2012, Governor John Kasich signed House Bill 116, also known as the Jessica Logan Act, into law. The bill requires anti-bullying policies be extended to school buses, staff obtain training to prevent bullying, and parents receive annual notification of the bullying policy. The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio welcomes the long overdue changes, but calls for additional protections on the state and federal level.
“All children should be able to go to school without fear of violence or intimidation, but that is simply not the case in Ohio,” said ACLU of Ohio Executive Director Christine Link, “While the Jessica Logan Act is a positive first step towards protecting all students, state officials failed to specifically protect those students who are most vulnerable.”
On Thursday, the ACLU released a new video documenting the story of Zach, a Chillicothe-area high school student who was brutally beaten at his school because of his sexual orientation. The attack was captured on video and the footage spread rapidly on the Internet. The ACLU’s video can be viewed at http://bit.ly/yEWUM1.
The Jessica Logan Act does not enumerate specific groups that school officials should focus on protecting. In testimony before the Senate Education Committee, the ACLU of Ohio urged legislators to adopt categories such as race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender identity to the bill.
“Young people can be cruel to those they view as ‘different.’ LGBT students are particularly vulnerable and with the recent rash of suicide and violence, bullying often has tragic consequences,” added Link. “State law should enumerate the groups that need protection, so school officials would be left without doubt what types of behavior crosses the line into bullying and would be more likely to provide training on those issues.”
The video released by the ACLU also calls attention to the federal Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA). The bill would provide additional protections for students who face discrimination in school because of their real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity.
The ACLU of Ohio represents Zach and his mother, Rebecca Collins. The ACLU is in negotiations with school officials to change policies to prevent future attacks.