Legislation that will be considered by the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday would call for training and standards to prevent dating violence among middle and high school students — but only the straight ones.
A line inserted in the bill defines a dating partner as someone in a "heterosexual relationship." Therefore, under the existing language, the state Department of Education and individual school districts will be responsible for developing prevention, reporting, and disciplinary procedures for cases of dating violence only in heterosexual cases.
Responsible school districts aren't likely to exclude gay and lesbians students in this important program, says Warren Redman-Gress, executive director of the Alliance for Full Acceptance, a Charleston-based gay advocacy group.
But he's concerned that some teachers and administrators might take the wiggle-room afforded in this bill and ignore the signs that a gay student is the victim of dating violence. Studies suggest that gay students are just as likely to face these kinds of problems. They may be at even greater risk due to the secrecy often involved in their relationships.
SC Equality, a statewide gay rights organization, is calling for opponents to the bill's language to attend the committee hearing at 10 a.m. Wednesday in the Gressette Building on the Statehouse grounds, Room 105.
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State gay activists are rallying support to sideline another anti-gay effort in the legislature. Bills introduced in both the House and the Senate would create standards for educating teens on dating violence. An effort last year to define these relationships as strictly heterosexual, ignoring the very real threat that young gay and lesbian teens face in their own relationships, was beat back after community opposition. But the amendment has been attached to another bill currently in the Senate Education Committee.
Not only are gays and lesbians just as likely to be victims of dating violence, they may be even more at risk because of the sometimes secretive nature of their relationships.
“If conservatives and liberals could agree on one issue in this state, I would think it would be that all violence towards children is wrong,” says Ray Drew, executive director of the statewide gay advocacy group S.C. Equality. “This is state sanctioned abuse of gay teenagers, and the legislature ought to be ashamed of itself.”
Here's our piece from last year regarding the House dating violence bill.