BATON ROUGE, La. (ABP) – Southern Baptist leaders in Louisiana are opposing efforts to add more specific language to the state’s ban against bullying in public schools.
John Yeats, communications director for the Louisiana Baptist Convention, spoke against a bill that passed the state's House Education Committee on an 8-4 vote May 12.
"There's no research that the current statute isn't working,” Yeats said, quoted in the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “We just have anecdotes."
Sponsored by Rep. Austin Badon, D-New Orleans, the bill would delete exemptions for six specific parishes that are named in the current anti-bullying law and define prohibited behavior to include “any gesture or written, verbal, or physical act by a student directed at another student occurring on school property, on a school bus, or at a school-sponsored event that is reasonably perceived as being motivated by any actual or perceived characteristic such as race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or expression, physical characteristic, political persuasion, mental disability and physical disability.”
Yeats, who currently serves as recording secretary of the Southern Baptist Convention, blogged recently, “While recognizing a serious problem in many school districts, this current bill is rift with serious problems.”
While passage of the bill out of committee drew unusual applause from the Capitol gallery, social conservatives, including the Louisiana Family forum, say it is unnecessary and a de facto endorsement of homosexuality.
In his testimony before lawmakers, Yeats advocated for a policy that "does not require sensitivity training on immoral behavior." He later said "homosexual activists are hijacking the bullying statutes to promote homosexuality."
Yeats said the new language would leave school administrators to make "subjective" judgments about an accused bully's "motivation" and what they "perceived" about their accuser. "Who gets to decide what is offensive?" he asked.
The bill moves on to the full House, where it faces an uncertain future. The newspaper said the full House generally is more conservative than the committee.
Bob Allen is managing editor of Associated Baptist Press.