Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand joined Senator Al Franken and 21 of their Senate colleagues to introduce 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.
“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.”
“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.”
“We have a responsibility to provide every student with a safe and inclusive learning environment,” said New York City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “For the past two years, we’ve been working with advocates and community members to expand our Respect for All program in New York City. However, this is an issue of national scope and I thank Senator Gillibrand for recognizing this. Because of her work on the Student Non-Discrimination Act students across the nation will be provided create safe, supportive learning environments, and I commend her for this act of leadership.”
“The Hetrick-Martin Institute, our nation’s oldest and largest LGBTQ youth service provider commends Senator Gillibrand and those vanguards of human rights who recognize that education – free of discrimination, bullying, victimization and abuse – is not a privilege, but a right,” says Hetrick-Martin Institute Executive Director Thomas Krever. “We applaud this act of legislation that sends a profound message to our nation’s most vulnerable population; its youth, and to those that care for them, adults, that equality for all and the dignity that accompanies it, will now be fully realized and that all young people – regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity truly do matter and actions contrary to this will no longer be tolerated.”
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.
SNDA is co-sponsored by Senators. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), 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 (D-R.I.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii).