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Nevada private schools removed from anti-bullying bill

CARSON CITY — Private schools were exempted Thursday from a bill expanding anti-bullying training to include gender orientation and identity.

Senate Bill 225 was amended and approved by the Senate Finance Committee on a party-line vote. It now goes the full Senate for consideration.

The initial bill sought to expand anti-bullying laws to private schools and require training for school personnel to include “the rights and needs of persons with diverse gender identities or expressions.”

That provision sparked strong opposition from some parents who argued it would infringe on their religious freedoms. In a previous hearing, they complained they send their children to religious schools to adhere to their moral beliefs.

Sen. David Parks, D-Las Vegas, is the sponsor of the bill and proposed the amendment Thursday. The amendment makes compliance by private schools voluntary.

Parks said he’s hopeful that other programs, including a safe-to-tell initiative to report bullying, will entice private schools to adopt the state’s anti-bullying laws.

Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford, D-Las Vegas, supported the amendment with reservations out of deference to the bill sponsor, but also noted his objection to the exemption.

“I do think it’s inappropriate to ask for public money on the one hand and not want to comply with our anti-discrimination laws on the other hand,” Ford said.

Republicans are pushing for education savings accounts, a program that would allow parents to tap taxpayer dollars to help send their children to private school.

Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval has included $60 million in his budget proposal for the upcoming two years to fund the program, but the Democratic leadership in the Senate and Assembly have yet to consider the bill.

The ESA program is a major issue hanging in the balance as legislators face a deadline of midnight June 5 deadline to adjourn.

Contact Sandra Chereb at schereb@reviewjournal.com or 775-461-3821. Follow @SandraChereb on Twitter.

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