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Anti-bullying bill dies; Senator blames "homophobia"

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Anti-bullying bill dies; Senator blames "homophobia"

CREATED Mar. 16, 2012

Reporter: Jessica Chapin

TUCSON (KGUN9- TV) - One state legislator says homophobia is to blame for an anti-bullying bill killed before it reached committee.  Sen. David Schapira introduced SB 14652 aiming to establish an anti-harassment training program in addition to other bullying crackdowns.

Schapira blames the lobby group Center for Arizona Policy president Cathi Herrod for the bill's failure.

"Unfortunately you have an unelected lobbyist who believes that this bill is somehow part of the master plan of the gay agenda," said Schapira, "and she is so adamant that gay kids not be protected that she opposed a bill that would have protected all kids."

The Center for Arizona Policy website lays out their view in the words of Herrod.  She writes, "There is no doubt about it; the "bullying" theme is agenda-driven propaganda.  The irony is that groups like Equality Arizona and GLSEN have chosen this issue to bully you and me into allowing them access into our schools and to our children."

Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network of Southern Arizona member Allen Storm argues the bill makes no reference to race, gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation.

"I think we in Arizona we tend to try to legislate who we should protect in schools and who we allow to get beat up," he said, "If a kid looks funny for whatever reason we tend to think it's alright."

GLSEN and Arizona Equality members were present during the bill's presentation.  9 On Your Side asked Storm if he thought that hurt the bill's chances.

"Yes it probably did," he said, "I'm not surprised."

Schapira counters the Center for Arizona Policy, saying organizations like GLSEN are already allowed to present in schools.  He claims Herrod didn't read the bill.

9 On Your Side reporter Jessica Chapin called the lobbying group for an answer, but they sent this statement instead:

         “No child should be bullied for any reason, there is no debate about that. Last year, the Arizona Legislature passed a bill to adequately address the issue of bullying in schools. What Senator Schapira and his political friends at Equality Arizona are proposing is not about preventing bullying, but about opening up our schools to activist organizations to promote their agenda to children. Parents send their kids to school for reading, writing, and arithmetic, not to be exposed to propaganda. The legislature saw through this thinly veiled attempt to turn the awful and devastating issue of bullying into election year politicking. There simply is no need at this time to expand current law addressing bullying.”

The fact remains, in the past school year according to Tucson Police, four students in the Tucson area have committed suicide after they were bullied.

Schapira says he will continue to push for anti-bullying legislation, but says this was the only bill with the opportunity to pass by the end of the year.