Senator Franken Introduces Bill To Protect LGBT Students From Bullying At School

Washington, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–May 21, 2010.  Yesterday, U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and 22 of his colleagues introduced the Student Non-Discrimination Act to protect students who are (or are perceived to be) lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender  (LGBT) from harassment, bullying, and violence at school.

“Kids need to feel safe in their schools in order to learn,” said Sen. Franken. “Our nation’s civil rights laws protect our children from bullying due to race, sex, religion, disability, and national origin. My proposal corrects a glaring injustice and extends these protections to our gay and lesbian students who need them just as badly. No student should have to dread going to school because they fear being bullied.”

“Students already feel the pressure of making friends and getting good grades in school – the last thing they should have to endure is bullying and discrimination because of who they are,” said Sen. Merkley.  “By sending a strong message to our youth that discrimination is not acceptable, we’re also helping them understand that everyone has something that makes them unique.  I am proud to join Senator Franken’s effort to say enough is enough when it comes to discrimination against our students on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.”

“All children should always feel safe and secure in our schools,” said Sen. Gillibrand. “While at school to learn, some students are forced to endure harassment, violence, bullying, and intimidation because of their sexual orientation. This is completely unacceptable. Our laws ensure that all students have access to public education in a safe environment free from discrimination, and these laws must  guarantee  these same protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students. This is the only way to ensure that every student has the opportunity to achieve his or her God given potential.”

“The Student Non-Discrimination Act will ensure that under Federal law, all public school children are protected equally from discrimination.  Children deserve a safe environment where they can learn the skills and knowledge necessary to be good citizens,” said Chairman Leahy.  “I urge all Senators to come together to support this important bill to ensure that all of our students are given the opportunity to succeed, free from harassment or discrimination.”

“This legislation addresses the growing problem of bullying and harassment in our schools,” said Sen. Akaka.  “All students have the right to feel safe and to focus on their education.  As a former educator and longtime supporter of civil rights, I am proud to join my colleagues in the fight to end discrimination.”

Surveys indicate that nearly nine in 10 LGBT students have been bullied, and a recent study conducted by doctors at Nationwide Children’s Hospital found that LGBT youth are bullied two to three times more often than their heterosexual peers.

The harassment LGBT youth experience in school deprives them of equal educational opportunities by increasing their likelihood of skipping school, underperforming academically, and eventually dropping out.  It can also have a detrimental effect on their physical and mental health.  Left unchecked, this harassment can lead to life-threatening violence and suicide.

The Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA) would establish a comprehensive federal prohibition against discrimination in public schools based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.  It would forbid schools from discriminating against LGBT students or ignoring harassing behavior.

SNDA would also provide meaningful and effective remedies (loss of federal funding and a legal cause of action for victims) for discrimination in public schools based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, modeled after Title IX.

Sen. Franken’s proposal is co-sponsored by 22 of his colleagues, including Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), John Kerry (D-Mass.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Robert Menedez (D-N.J.), Sheldon Whitehouse (DR.I.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii).