The 10th Amendment to the Constitution was sort of a catch-all Amendment. It left anything not delegated to the federal government in the hands of individual states. As part of that, education was left to individual states, “which provide education as an entitlement: All children have a right to an education provided by the state within which they reside” (Merrell, Ervin, & Gimpel, 2006, p. 114). Education is also considered a property right and is covered under the 14th Amendment, which provides for equal protection as well as due process (states cannot deprive someone of life, liberty or property without due process of law) to all citizens.
In other words, education that is free and appropriate and promotes quality learning and a better quality of life is one of our unalienable rights–up there with life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
That’s why it was disturbing to read a couple of weeks ago about the controversy surrounding a bill that was recently passed by the NC Senate: the School Violence Prevention Act. It has not yet been signed into law, though Gov. Bev Perdue says she supports such measures.
This Act is an anti-bullying measure that puts school districts on alert and requires them to guard against harassment and bullying based on sexual orientation and gender identity–in addition to bullying based on race, ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic status, academic ability, physical appearance…the usual.
The bill, if passed, would require all school districts to have a policy in place that outlines methods and strategies for protecting students…by December 31, 2009.
This bill comes at a time when a similar bill regarding hate crimes is in Congress and states are legalizing same-sex marriage.
Opponents of the bill in NC warn that this bill, which protects children from being bullied (read: getting the shit beat out of them) in school, will set a “precedent for more sweeping gay-rights initiatives in NC–up to and including same-sex marriage” (Independent Weekly, May 13, 2009).
We’re going to make the jump from protecting children in schools to same-sex marriage?
Receiving a free and appropriate education is not only an entitlement we have according to federal and state law, it is mandated by state law (ever heard of truancy and its consequences?). If we are going to require education, shouldn’t we also be responsible for ensuring all children are in a safe learning environment where they are able to focus on their education and not their anxiety about whether they are going to get jumped that day?
What ever happened to the notion that bullying was bad? That being picked on because of the color of your skin or your gender or your sexual orientation (which, by the way, is often not a choice any more than skin color and ethnicity are), was not a good thing?
The idea that people would oppose a bill that protects children in favor of keeping same-sex marriage off the books is preposterous.
P.S. Two people of the same sex cannot legally be married in NC currently. Why the push for making same-sex marriage illegal? Don’t we have more pressing things to deal with…like the budget? Like the fact that NC is one of the top states for health insurance monopolies? Like job loss? Like the Easleys? OK…maybe not the Easleys.
My point is if we say everyone has the right to education…in order to better pursue life, liberty and happiness…why are people working vehemently to oppose protecting the people to whom that right is afforded?