Focus on the Family complained tonight that “Alabama schools are now required to write stricter anti-bullying policies, thanks to language in a bill that opens the door to the gay agenda.”

But a Focus on the Family employee doesn’t seem to know the difference between a bill and a law; he uses the two terms interchangeably.

He may be referring to the Student Harassment Prevention Act, which goes into effect Oct. 1. (PDF copy of the Act.) The legislation empowers the state department of education to develop a model policy for local districts to receive reports of harassment and to punish perpetrators. In particular, the law directs the department to develop “a procedure for the development of a nonexhaustive list of the specific personal characteristics of a student which may often lead to harassment. Based upon experience, a local board of education may add, but not remove, characteristics from the list.”

In other words, the state might specify race and religion for statewide protection; a local district might add sexual orientation to its local policy.

According to the Times Daily of Florence, Ala.:

Until now, there haven’t been any legal repercussions from bullying and it’s an issue the state has long needed to address, said longtime educator Lisa Moses, of Florence, who said bullying is one area addressed in another new piece of legislation known as Taylor’s Law. Under that law, a student’s behavior at school, including bullying, can delay the student from acquiring a driver’s license.

“Bullying has too long been ignored on the school level and has somewhat been accepted with a ‘boys will be boys’ attitude,” Moses said. “Kids need to be able to report these things anonymously, but they don’t trust that it will be kept quiet and they’re scared.” …

The issue came to a head in April when 11-year-old Jaheem Herrera committed suicide at his Atlanta-area home after his parents say he was repeatedly tormented in school. District officials denied it, and an independent review found bullying wasn’t a factor, a conclusion his family rejects.

Until now, Alabama children have been completely unprotected:

Alabama’s law covers grades pre-kindergarten through 12th. The sponsor of the bill, State Rep. Betty Carol Graham, D-Alexander City, said the new Alabama law was three years in the making and grew out of the rise in suicides among youth in the state and nation.

Focus on the Family objects to the law’s attention to “the motivations and ‘characteristics’ of victims, rather than on the wrong actions of the bullies.”

In other words, Focus believes that bullying is not really bullying in the case of certain types of victims. Focus believes that the distinction between “bullying” and physical action to correct homosexual youths should be decided not by the community or police, but by individual bullies and antigay faculty members.

Betty PetersFocus offers applause to Betty Peters, a member of the Alabama education board, who (Focus claims) said gay activists are “encouraging like-minded individuals to sign up for local committees that will be responsible for writing similar policies. She encouraged parents who oppose the gay agenda to do the same.”

Focus warns:

Parents should watch out for attempts to mandate special protections for “gender identity” and “sexual orientation”‚Äî which can pave the way for pro-gay curriculum and mandatory “diversity” training.

Focus believes other characteristics of students may be protected from bullying — but not gender identity or sexual orientation.

Josh Montez, Focus’ staff writer, fails to inform readers that Peters is a member of the American Family Association, Alabama Republican Assembly, Eagle Forum, and Christian Coalition. Peters wants creationism to be taught in schools. She was the lone no-vote on state Superintendent of Education Dr. Joe Morton’s recommendation that Alabama participate in a state-led initiative to develop common core standards for English and mathematics. Peters also opposed President Obama’s speech to school children.

Peters’ Eagle Forum membership is worth remembering — we shall revisit this momentarily.

Montez also failed to tell readers about the experiences of bullied students and faculty. According to radio station WBHM-FM in Birmingham:

…Critics say that merely implying that gay students are protected is not enough. The result, they say, is that no one is safe, even those who are just perceived gay.

Experts say that these days children are hearing more anti-gay language in school. Carly Friedman is a Samford University psychology professor and research consultant for the Alabama Safe Schools Coalition. Friedman is surveying Alabama students to gauge how often they hear gay slurs in school.

“We are seeing an increase in things like, Oh that’s so gay, You’re such a fag. These words that we are hearing more often I think that really can have an effect on young people.”

She’s found that they don’t concentrate as well, they skip class, and they have higher rates of depression and suicidal thoughts. Friedman adds that gay slurs affect all youth. …

But people like Eunie Smith, president of Eagle Forum of Alabama, a conservative activist group, say homosexuality shouldn’t be talked about in schools, much less tolerated.”Well, young people are highly impressionable. And for the schools to provide some special status for those who would perceive themselves to be homosexual…would be to legitimize and therefore to encourage these unhealthy lifestyles.”

Smith and Peters — both of them, leaders within the Eagle Forum — object to safety for LGBT students despite those students’ safe and responsible lifestyles, and even when those students’ parents and churches accept them. In the view of Smith and Peters, antigay parents and students enjoy a “religious freedom” to slander and bully others: a freedom that supersedes the personal and religious freedom of LGBT students and their families.

But Focus’s Montez does not share any of this information with readers.

Focus says Montez obtained a bachelor’s degree in communication from Moody Bible Institute. One wonders what kind of communication is really taught at Moody.