Eng touts tolerance classes
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Location: Torrance, CA
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Topic: Eng touts tolerance classes
Posted: Feb 27 2008 at 9:35am
Eng touts tolerance classes
By Jennifer McLain, Staff Writer
Article Launched: 02/18/2008 10:54:06 PM PST
• Video: Mike Eng announces tolerance-promoting bill
EL MONTE - The shooting death of a 15-year-old gay student last week prompted Assemblyman Mike Eng to revive anti-hate crime legislation.
Lawrence King was an eighth-grader at an Oxnard junior high school and was teased because he dressed like a woman. He was shot and killed Feb. 12, and prosecutors charged a classmate, 14-year-old Brandon McInerney, with premeditated murder.
On Monday, the El Monte Democrat unveiled a plan that would require tolerance classes as part of the public school curriculum. The bill would provide training for teachers, administrators and parents so they could identify, "symptoms of hate."
"When there's a death it makes you realize this could have been prevented," Eng said. "Our legislation will develop a new curriculum that teaches tolerance, offers training to teachers, and will have programs that reach out to parents."
There is legislation that currently protects the equal rights of students. Senate Bill 777, introduced by Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, amended the education code and prohibits gender bias against gay, lesbian, or bisexual students.
Supporters of Eng's proposal said that administrators have a responsibility to protect children such as King.
"We think that it is mandatory to teach kids about intolerance," said Adele Andrade-Stadler, President of the Alhambra Unified School District.
Eng introduced a resolution, the local law enforcement hate crimes prevention act, in 2007 designed to strengthen the ability of federal, state and local government to investigate and prosecute hate crimes.
He also proposed bills that would have offered tolerance training in diversity, race, ethnic background and sexual preference. The governor vetoed those bills, Eng said.
"I was shocked when I heard about Larry King," Eng said. "I thought if our legislation would have been enacted, perhaps there would have been a different result."
Mike Spence, president of the California Republican Assembly, couldn't comment on the proposal because he hadn't seen it. But he said he opposed a similar bill, by Eng's wife, former Assemblywoman Judy Chu, that wanted civil rights groups to teach the curriculum.
"The Chu bill turned it over to civil rights groups," Spence said. "Her bill handed the curriculum over to advocacy groups, and they may have an agenda different that what parents want."
The proposed bill would offer, "funding for training that couldn't be found on a Web site," Eng said. He estimates it to cost $150,000 to develop pilot programs and to put the program in place.
"No matter where people fall on the gay rights issue, they have to feel extremely shocked and saddened by this," Eng said. "As one student put it, `I don't advocate the gay lifestyle, but you shouldn't be shot for who you are.' "
More than 1,000 people came out Saturday to show their support for King during a peace march in Oxnard. King was declared brain dead two days after he was shot and was taken off life support.
King came out as a homosexual this year and went to school with his nails painted, makeup and wearing high-heeled boots.
Whether Eng's bill could have any impact in the school system remains to be seen, said Virginia Uribe, creator of Project 10, an organization that provides educational support to the public school system to gay, bisexual-sexual and transgender youth.
"It will depend on how courageous the lawmakers get," Uribe said. "We are public educators, and we serve the needs of all children."
Eng has until Friday to introduce the bill.
"We know from the 1,000 people that marched that the community wants something," Eng said, "and they want it now."
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Edited by NoLa - Feb 27 2008 at 9:36am
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