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New Hampshire Passes School Safety Bill

Compiled By GayToday

Concord, New Hampshire-- The New Hampshire Legislature has passed a sweeping school safety bill designed to protect all students from harassment and violence, according to the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund. The Victory Fund credits openly gay and lesbian lawmakers and their fair-minded non-gay allies for leading the successful effort; all five members of the Legislature's gay and lesbian caucus testified for the bill and worked for its passage. New Hampshire Gov. Jeanne Shaheen is expected to sign the bill.

"Thanks largely to the leadership of openly gay and lesbian elected officials and their courageous colleagues, New Hampshire's young people will be able to focus on their education rather than facing intimidation," said Victory Fund Executive Director Brian K. Bond.

"Of any state in America, New Hampshire has the largest contingent of openly gay and lesbian state lawmakers and has made some of the clearest legislative progress toward equality. That's no coincidence."

The measure requires local school boards to take action to prevent and remedy incidents of violence, harassment and discrimination on any basis. Any school employee or outside contractor who witnesses harassment will be required to report it and the school will be obliged to take action.

Students targeted for unfair treatment because of their religion, race, gender, actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, or any other reason will now have recourse -- a marked contrast with the current situation. Under the new law, school employees will also receive sensitivity training for dealing with minority populations, specifically including gay and lesbian students.

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Related Sites:
Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund

New Hampshire Office of the Governor

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The measure's prime sponsor was New Hampshire's only openly gay or lesbian state senator, Rick Trombly (D-Boscawen), whom the Victory Fund is supporting in his current re-election bid. Trombly's race is expected to be closely fought.

According to Trombly, the measure is crucial because without it, schools are not held responsible for harassment and -- particularly in cases in which such misconduct is based on sexual orientation or gender identity -- school administrators are often hesitant to take appropriate action to ensure student safety.

"This is a simple issue of fairness for New Hampshire students and their families," said Trombly. "No one should have to face harassment in school for any reason, whether it is because of who they are, what they believe or anything else for that matter."

The bill originally passed the Senate on March 30 by a unanimous voice vote of 24 to zero. It then went to the House where it was amended and passed by a vote of 233 to 113 on May 4. It then was sent back to the Senate where final passage occurred on May 11, again by a unanimous voice vote.

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