Anti-Bullying Bill Filed By Houston Lawmaker
March 7, 2011

(News Release)

Rep. Coleman Files Asher’s Law

HB 2343 Will Help Prevent Emotional Trauma and Suicide Among Youth

Austin–Representative Garnet F. Coleman (D-Houston) today filed Asher’s Law to help protect our children before they are terrorized and traumatized both physically and mentally. Earlier this session, Rep. Coleman filed HB 1386, identical legislation. With the permission of the Truong family, the parents of 13 year old Asher Brown who tragically took his life last summer after being repeatedly taunted by his peers, Rep. Coleman filed HB 2343 to dedicate the act to Asher Brown and to every child that has fallen victim to the severe emotional trauma caused by bullying and harassment.

“The Truongs are acting with grace and courage,” said Rep. Coleman. “They’re allowing a tremendous personal tragedy to be a catalyst for change in state statute. We should honor them.”

HB 2343 directs the Department of State Health Services and the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to implement a program to 1) recognize students at risk of emotional trauma and /or committing suicide, 2) subsequently intervene effectively, and 3) refer students to mental health services if necessary.

“I watched close friends go through a similar heartbreaking experience. Their son had to change schools because he was repeatedly physically terrorized and tormented. He later committee suicide.” added Rep. Coleman. “I know the hurt I felt for them, and for the pain their son went through. I can’t even imagine the pain of losing your own child.”

HB 2343 will require public schools to report incidents of harassment annually to the TEA as well as to provide training to district employees regarding the prevention of such incidents. HB 2343 also prohibits discrimination based on association with a person, and protects the parents of students and whistleblowers who may report incidents of discrimination or harassment. Additionally, it addresses harassment and discrimination by the school district and district employees to students and other employees.

Added Rep. Coleman, “Every day, our children are emotionally traumatized and scarred. It is our responsibility to protect them before they are driven to suicide or become severely emotionally disturbed.”

HB 2343 also gives the school districts the ability to transfer the bully, instead of the current policy of transferring the victim.

Representative Coleman has filed similar legislation every Texas Legislative session since 2003. Prior to 2003, Representative Coleman was a staunch supporter of similar legislation by Former State Representative Harryette Ehrhardt.

Reps. Coleman And Farrar To Refile Dignity For All Students Act
October 1, 2010

(News release) 

(Houston, TX) – Representatives Garnet Coleman and Jessica Farrar announced today that they would again file and work to pass the Dignity For All Students Act to prohibit discrimination or harassment against students and employees of Texas public schools.  Recent news reports have highlighted the necessity for such legislation, including the most recent case of 13-year-old Asher Brown, who took his own life after enduring harassment and bullying at his school.

“Every student has the right to a public education, and every student has the right to a safe learning environment,” said Representative Coleman.  “My heart breaks for Asher Brown and his family, and every victim of bullying that has to go to school in fear.  I have filed this bill every legislative session since 2003.  It is high time that we passed this bill before any more children are bullied to suicide or life changing emotional distress.”

The Dignity For All Students Act prohibits discrimination and harassment on the basis of ethnicity, color, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, disability, religion, or national origin.  Additionally, the bill prohibits discrimination based on association with a person, and protects both the parents of students and whistleblowers who may report incidents of discrimination or harassment.

“There are too many painful stories and tragic endings,” said Representative Farrar.  “When schools turn a blind eye towards discrimination and harassment, we have failed.  The Dignity for All Students Act will help set a tone in Texas that no type of discrimination will be tolerated in this state.”

The Dignity for All Students Act also directs Texas schools to take preventive steps by establishing a policy that includes LGBT youth that will help stem harassment before it becomes a problem.  It provides for data reporting on incidents of harassment in public schools as well as requiring school districts to undergo training on how to respond to and prevent harassment and discrimination at school.

The 82nd Legislature begins January 11, 2011.