Lawmaker's comment on bullying sparks call for removal - WKRN News 2

Lawmaker's comment on bullying sparks call for removal

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -

The Tennessee Equality Project is asking people to call Speaker Beth Harwell's office and demand that Representative Roger Kane (R) Knoxville be removed from the House Education Sub Committee.

During discussion of HB0927, an anti-bully bill, Rep. Kane said, "That which doesn't kill you makes you stronger."

Speaker Harwell said Wednesday evening that her office received one complaint about the comment, but she did not plan to remove Kane from the sub committee.

"If something was said that was hurtful, I regret that and I am sure Representative Kane is regretful, but we are moving forward," she said by phone. "This legislature is committed to stopping bullying and will continue to review this legislation."

"Students have died from bullying here in Tennessee," Chris Sanders, President of the Tennessee Equality Project said. "It was troubling this occurred on the House Education Sub-Committee, a committee charged with really protecting our students."

In December 2011 Jacob Rogers, 18, killed himself following alleged bullying in at Cheatham Central High School.

Then in January 2012 Phillip Parker Jr., 14, killed himself in Smith County. His parents said he was bullied.

Both teens were openly gay.

"There is a lot of work to do to change the climate both in our schools and in our legislature when it comes to understanding bullying," Sanders said.

Representative Kane said the controversy caused by his comment is a misunderstanding.

He said in no way was he saying he did not support anti-bullying legislation.

"I know there are children who committed suicide over bullying and that is never acceptable," he said, "but the bill was just so all encompassing where it could include anything both real and perceived."

House Bill 0927 is also known as the Dignity for All Students Act. It was introduced by Representative Karen Camper (D) from Memphis.

The bill specifies that harassment, intimidation or bullying includes conduct when it is based on perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, ethnicity, academic achievement, sexual orientation, disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, or physical appearance of either the student or a person with whom the student has an actual or perceived association.

According to the legislation, the bullying could be actual or perceived and would include school staff and volunteers.

It would enhance the present law that requires schools to have an anti-bullying policy.

"This bill was just so over reaching that a child who is too tall, had blonde hair or a child wearing the wrong team's football jersey, who felt picked on either real or perceived, would qualify," Kane said.

Sanders said the legislation is not over reaching.

"The representative may not be aware that a number of children are bullied because of their appearance," he said.

Kane also said while bullying is unacceptable, students learning how to handle peer criticism can help them later in life.

He pointed to his own experiences with students picking on him.

"As a child I had to deal with this because my mother is Jewish, my father is Catholic and I went to a Christian school," he said. "I heard this all the time even people calling me a Jesus killer because my mother was Jewish."

He continued, "It made me a better person in that it taught me how to take responses, look at people and just pray for them to get to a better place."

Kane said he has welcomed the TEP and its members in the past to discuss issues and will continue to hear their concerns.

The bill was deferred in the House Education Sub-Committee.

Kane said it will be reviewed during summer study, a period of time in the summer where bills that were deferred are studied and revised.

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