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Cal State Bakersfield to host conference on anti-gay bullying law

May 21, 2012 |  1:52 pm

Seth Walsh

After being harassed by fellow students at Tehachapi High School in 2010, Seth Walsh took his life. Three months later, a bill was introduced in the state Legislature that would help protect students from bullying.

The provisions of that bill, known as Seth’s Law, go into effect in July, and on May 30, Cal State Bakersfield will host a conference that will consider the implications of the bill and other legal protections for students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.

Among those attending the conference will be Wendy Walsh, Seth’s mother; Judith Pratt, a professor; Suzanne Taylor, a civil rights attorney with the Department of Education; and Gary Takasian, the director of the film “Teach Your Children Well,” which will be screened at the event.

Seth’s Law, or AB 9, adds new provisions to existing anti-bullying policies in California schools. The bill, which was written by state Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), aims to ensure that all schools have clear and consistent policies and timelines for investigating bullying claims.

The bill requires the superintendent of Public Instruction to provide an updated list of statewide resources, including community-based organizations, that provide support to youth who have been subjected to school-based discrimination, harassment, intimidation or bullying.

Walsh’s suicide was one in a string of suicides among gay teenagers -– Tyler Clementi, 18; Billy Lucas, 15; and Asher Brown, 13 -– that occurred in 2010. The tragedies became the focus of a national conversation about tolerance, the consequences of being harassed and being young and gay.

Walsh’s death led to a federal investigation by the education and justice departments that concluded his harassment had inhibited his educational opportunities and violated his civil rights.

A settlement with the Tehachapi Unified School District, which is east of Bakersfield, mandated the district to revise its policies to prevent sexual and gender-based harassment in schools and offer mandatory training for students, administrators and faculty members.

In addition, the district was required to circulate “climate surveys” to measure harassment in its schools and form an advisory committee of administrators, students and parents to suggest ways to improve the school environment.

The event at Cal State Bakersfield runs from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Admission is free; parking is available on campus for $5.


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-- Thomas Curwen

Photo: Seth Walsh, right, shown with brother Shawn, hanged himself in 2010, after being harassed. Credit: Walsh family photo