October 26, 2011

South Carolina Governor's Anti-Bullying Tour - LGBT Kids Left Out




Governor Nikki Haley (R-SC) visited Indian Land Middle School in Indian Land, South Carolina on Monday - as part of South Carolina’s Bully Prevention Month. I’m guessing that the state of South Carolina opted out of recognizing October as LGBT History month, and embraced October as "Bully Prevention Month."

I applaud the efforts of politicians who are sincere about putting a stop to bullying. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed an "anti-bullying bill of rights." I was happy to see the Governor of South Carolina bringing attention to bullying in her state.

The South Carolina Governor told her young audience “cool kids don’t bully.” I’m curious about what her message was for kids who don’t consider themselves to be cool - what did the governor tell them? Or was her speech just directed at the “cool” kids.

Admittedly I don’t live in South Carolina, and don’t know a lot about Governor Haley. I know that she’s a Republican, a woman, a teabagger, and conservative. I know that Michelle “Bozo” Bachmann stays at the Governor’s mansion when she’s in South Carolina, which I thought was interesting.

Governor Haley made some remarks that caught my attention while on her anti-bullying tour.

Haley said she's focusing on middle schools because that's "where they really start to notice what they look like, what they act like, how they treat others."

It's more difficult to address problem behaviors once students are in high school, she said.

Haley has been touring the state promoting her legislative agenda for next year. When asked if her agenda would include anything related to helping schools get resources to deal with bullying, she said the problem is "cultural," and a solution can't be "mandated" through legislative action.

How to address it is "something that must be taught."

Teaching children respect toward one another is key, she said.

Problem behaviors are harder to address in high school, so she’s skipping high schools. In South Carolina if you’re being bullied in high school, I guess you’re just shit out of luck?

Bullying is cultural? A solution can’t be mandated through legislation? That’s nuts.

In the 2009-2010 legislative session in South Carolina, Governor Haley voted for H.3543, which was a bill that would require the State Department of Education to develop a “model”  policy and teaching materials related to domestic/dating violence, to supply to local school systems, to educate students, and to provide for a domestic/dating violence reporting mechanism for students and school administrators. In South Carolina you can’t file a complaint, or ask for a restraining order, if you're a minor or dating the person who commits the violence. Because someone you're dating would never commit an act of violence. Right.

The state legislature introduced a bill to catch up with the rest of the country, and a homophobic legislator amended the bill to say that a "date" is a defined as ““a person involved in a heterosexual dating relationship with another” and LGBT students and dates were specifically forbidden.

Governor Haley voted yes to the definition to exclude LGBT students, and she voted yes to pass the discriminatory bill. Ultimately the bill stalled in the Senate and wasn’t enacted.
I have found no evidence that the Governor makes any mention of LGBT students on her anti-bully mission, and couldn't find one mention of the LGBT community at all in her campaign for governor.

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley was born Nimrata Randhawa. She acquired the nickname Nikki earlier in life, and married Michael Haley in 1996. Her parents are Sikh, and immigrants, who were born in India. I mention this because I didn’t know that, and she mentioned it in her bullying remarks.

In her speech before the kids at Indian Land Middle School she said:

"I was bullied because they wanted to know whether I was black or I was white," she said.

Playing kickball one day, Haley asked the others, "'Are y'all ready to play?' And they said, 'We are, but you're not.'"

The children wouldn't let her play until she told them whether she was black or white, she said.

"And I didn't know. I was brown," she said, recalling how it made her feel. "I didn't know what that made me."

She had a message for bullied children, too: "You need to fight back, not fight back with your fists, but you fight back by telling someone and saying you are not going to take it anymore."

The Governor was bullied, and probably faced even more mean people in her life, as a person of color. What’s preventing her from doing something for all the kids in South Carolina? Why doesn’t she acknowledge LGBT students? Is this a case of - if I can get through this you can too?


Prior to her election as governor, a racist state Senator called her a raghead repeatedly on television, so she knows what it feels like to be bullied and picked on as an adult.

Equality South Carolina published a study that indicated that nearly 50% of all LGBT students experienced bullying, harassment or discrimination in South Carolina’s public education system. Fifty-nine percent of respondents also indicated they’ve been verbally harassed and 30 percent say they’ve experienced discrimination in employment.
Isn’t this a no-brainer whether you’re a Republican or Democrat? Discrimination of any form is not acceptable? It’s no wonder that nearly half of the LGBT students in South Carolina are bullied.


Her misguided notion that legislation can’t do anything to change or address the culture of discrimination, and bullying, is preposterous. If we used that logic, we wouldn't have laws addressing discrimination or assault, domestic violence, and many other human "behaviors."

Anyone in South Carolina who is unhappy with Governor Haley needs to tell her that you’re unhappy and you’re not going to take it anymore, just like she suggested. I don't live in South Carolina and I'm going to tell her.

The irony to this story is that in 2001 when she registered to vote, she listed her race as “white.” That’s pretty sad if you ask me.

The Republican Governor says that you should fight back - when you can see by her own example - when faced with adversity, her desire to fit in with the “white” Republicans was far greater than owning who she is and telling the truth.

That’s sad for her, and incredibly sad for the people who have to suffer as a result of South Carolina’s discriminatory laws, and narrow minded Governor.

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