State audit seeks to assess bullying/harassment laws in schools


High school senior Calen Valencia knows all too well what bullying is like.

"I was pushed around physically and I was called a lot of slur names," said Valencia.

Despite years of tough anti-bullying laws in California, some in place for more than a decade, he feels schools are doing a poor job of helping students like him.

"Teachers never really stepped in, and didn't really know how to handle the situations," said Valencia.

The Joint Legislative Audit is finally doing something about it.

Assemblyman Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) has gotten approval for an audit of every public school and local education agency in the state to examine whether anti-bullying and harassment laws have been implemented.

A California Healthy Kids Survey in 2000 found that every year more than 200,000 kids were harassed because they are gay or because someone thought they were gay.

Lara points to the recent shooting death of 15-year-old Lawrence King in Oxnard and the suicide of 13-year-old Seth Walsh of Tehachapi as examples of how there might be some gaps.

"One student being bullied or harassed is too many," said Lara. "We've seen our students either commit suicide, murdered, and we need to do everything we can to save every life."

Opponents say Democrats shouldn't make state government interfere with local issues.

"They want to control bullies, which really isn't under the purview of government," said Assemblyman Tim Donnelly (R-Twin Peaks). "That's really a parent's responsibility. Why don't they do an audit on why the educational system is failing?"

But an audit is important to Calen Valencia.

"Yeah, a lot of schools don't really implement them at all," said Valencia. "I didn't find out about these laws until this year in April."

The audit is expected to take nine months.

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