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Two anti-bullying resolutions pass after death of Huntsville teenager

Gabby Dance

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Two resolutions condemning all forms of bullying, including that based on sexual orientation or gender identity, passed the House on Thursday.

The bills were introduced by Alabama House Democratic Caucus members Rep. Neil Rafferty, D-Birmingham, and Rep. Merika Coleman, D-Birmingham, in response to the death by suicide of Nigel Shelby, a Huntsville teenager who was the victim of homophobic bullying.

“Last month, we lost a bright young mind when Nigel Shelby of Huntsville committed suicide,” Rafferty said. “LGBTQ+ teens across the state struggle with their identities as they try to earn an education and enjoy their youth. When bullying enters the picture, we have an almost impossible situation which prohibits our kids from succeeding and thriving. Anti-bullying programs must be supported in every school district so that we may generate awareness, promote safety and build the character of every child.

The first bill, HJR247, focuses specifically on condemning bullying based on sexual orientation and gender identity, recognizing how this category of bullying often leads to suicide.

The second, HJR246, condemns bullying as a whole and promotes anti-bullying programs in educational and employment settings.

Both bills condemn all forms of bullying, including cyber-bullying, harassment and intimidation.

“One life lost to bullying and depression is one life too many,” Coleman said. “Tragically, we see our kids take their own lives at increasingly younger ages, as we saw in fifth grader Jamari Terrell Williams. Legislators, teachers, parents, administrators and students themselves must strongly support and encourage understanding and love in our everyday lives. The further development and availability of anti-bullying programs in schools, workplaces and any other appropriate place is critical to the health and well-being of our young citizens.”

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