On March 8th, Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) and Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL), along with 17 co-sponsors re-introduced the Safe Schools Improvement Act. While the bill has been brought up before, this is the first time that the bill has been introduced with bipartisan support with the inclusion of actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity.
As described by the HRC:
The Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA) would amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to require schools and districts receiving federal funds to adopt codes of conduct specifically prohibiting bullying and harassment, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The SSIA would also require that states report data on bullying and harassment to the Department of Education. Additionally, the SSIA would require the Department of Education to provide Congress with a report on the state reported data, along with other specified data, every two years.
We all know that bullying in schools is more or less an epidemic, and protections for LGBTQ youth is an undeniable necessity.
"While we do have federal laws to provide support to promote school safety, there is nothing currently in place to comprehensively and expressly address issues of bullying or harassment,” said Senator Casey.
Statistics have shown for years that LGBTQ youth have suffered from bullying and harassment at absolutely unacceptable levels.
(Info courtesy of HRC- )
(Stats from the 2009 National School Climate Survey, conducted by GLSEN)
84.6 percent of LGBT students reported being verbally harassed, 40.1 percent reported being physically harassed and 18.8 percent reported being physically assaulted at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation. Moreover, 63.7 percent of LGBT students reported being verbally harassed, 27.2 percent reported being physically harassed and 12.5 percent reported being physically assaulted at school in the past year because of their gender expression.
I think it’s wonderful that the Safe Schools Improvement Act has bipartisan support. I am also incredibly proud to say that the reason SSIA is bipartisan is because of Mark Kirk- my Senator from Illinois! He also voted to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, so it’s encouraging to see him continue to lead among his Republican colleagues on issues of equality.
Co-sponsors for the Safe Schools Improvement Act include:
Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL)
Chuck Schumer (D-NY)
Patty Murray (D-WA)
John Kerry (D-MA)
Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
Ron Wyden (D-OR)
Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
Ben Cardin (D-MD)
Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
Jeff Merkley (D-OR)
Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
If you don’t see your Senators on the list, please call their office and ask them to become a co-sponsor of this important and necessary legislation and/or to support it when it comes to a vote. Or, if one or both of your Senators are already co-sponsors, call them to say Thank You!! You can call the capital switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask for your Senator’s office.
There’s no reason this bill shouldn’t be more bipartisan. Bullying can effecting anyone, and it can effect anyone’s children.
"Anti-LGBT harassment hurts the children of both Democrats and Republicans, as do all of the forms of bullying and harassment addressed by this important bill," GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard said.
Another feature of the bill is that it “clarifies that ‘electronic communications’ are a context in which students could experience harassment.” This was a priority of Senator Kirk, who wanted to address the “growing problem of cyber bullying.”
From The Log Cabin Republicans:
“Bullying on basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or religion has been growing at a rapid pace in the age of texting and online social networks,” said Kirk. “Our children need to feel protected and safe so they can learn, and I hope the Casey/Kirk bill will encourage schools and districts to develop effective prevention and responsible protocols.”
From The Washington Blade:
“It’s incumbent on the national legislature to keep up to speed with what’s happening in the country, and cyber-bullying is now very much a part of 21st century American life,” Kirk said.
I applaud Senator Kirk for acknowledging such a necessity. According to GLSEN, Rep. Linda Sanchez is expected to introduce similar legislation in the House within a few weeks. I look forward to seeing some real leadership on this issue. As young people, we see the everyday consequences of bullying, and as bloggers here at Amplify, we have become familiar with the stories of too many LGBTQ youth who are no longer with us because of bullying and suicide. We have lost real and potential friends and allies who should have stood shoulder to shoulder with us in our fight for a better future.
Here again is the phone number for the Capital Switchboard. (202) 224-3121. Call and ask your Senators to support the Safe Schools Improvement Act. It’s important.