Gay Rights Supporters Urge School Board to Protect Students' Rights

School board members approved a policy Wednesday afternoon meant to protect students from harassment and bullying of any kind. The policy includes cyber stalking, which can be through any type of electronic communication.

Board members even decided to take the policy a step further after hearing concerns from some residents. Local supporters of gay and lesbian rights spoke to the board about adding an additional provision regarding the First Amendment. They say they want students to feel protected regardless of their sexual orientation.

One representative from the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union says adding the language would prevent an issue like the one that occurred in Holmes County schools.

"If you recall the free speech case that happened in Holmes County that actually started out as a bullying case against a LGBT student. It evolved into a free speech case because the administration actually didn't do anything to the bullies and they really carried on the bullying themselves," said Bill Pritchard with the local chapter of the ACLU.

Representatives from the gay straight alliance at gulf coast community college also urged board members to protect students' rights.

"I've had several students from the college come to me and share their stories of discrimination from students in their classroom and also from teachers. Unfortunately I've had students from area high schools and middle schools hear of our organization and share their personal stories with me as well," said Wes Keene, Gulf Coast Community College assistant professor.

The new language will say the policy should not abridge a student's First Amendment rights.

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