vic_baylessThe Birmingham, Alabama Board of Education has passed an anti-bullying policy inclusive of sexual orientation, and gender identity and expression, according to our friend Howard Bayless, a member of the board.  A second policy passed by the board protects LGBT teachers from harassment.

Howard writes:

I have some great news.  Last night the Birmingham Board of Education unanimously passed the most comprehensive anti-bullying policy in the state of Alabama.  I am very proud to have been part of this effort and I want to congratulate my fellow board members on a job well done!

This process began over a year ago.  Being the first openly gay man elected in the state and the first openly gay school board member anywhere in Alabama, I knew I wanted our system to be more inclusive and welcoming to ALL of our students, but I also knew this would have to be a process that involved my eight fellow board members.

I first gathered anti-bullying policies from multiple school districts that I felt encompassed what we needed in our policy, and then drafted a policy for Birmingham schools.  I then began the long process of having conversation with each board member about why this was important not just as a board policy but also about why it was the right thing to do.  I told them my own story of growing up in Birmingham City Schools and being harassed and bullied–and how I carried that pain with me still today.  I also helped them to understand how that impacted me and my education.  As part of a broader strategic planning process, my fellow board members all agreed that we wanted safer school environments for ALL our children.

I believe these conversations provided the opportunity for all the board members to see the importance of an inclusive anti-bullying policy and to know why they needed to support this policy.  None of this would have ever occurred had we not had a voice at the table.  It is so critical and so important that we continue to help openly LGBT people elected to public office so we can be the change that we want and need, especially in places like Alabama.  I hope you’ll share this with the staff and your supporters.

–Howard

We could not be more proud of Howard, who has worked tirelessly across the state of Alabama and nationally to advance LGBT equality.  We need more brave people like him to step up and run for office in their own communities to make change like this possible in places where it doesn’t seem possible.  Learn more about running for office as an openly LGBT candidate at www.victoryfund.org.