Congress to Consider School Anti-Bullying Law

Federal officials are rightly concerned about bullying in school. The problem, of course, is also pervasive in the workplace. It would not be surprising if lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgendered employees,  or employees who are perceived as thus, also are frequent targets of workplace bullying.  PGB

The Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA) was reintroduced in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate last week in an effort to protect to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students in federally-funded public elementary and high schools from bullying.

The bill, which was reintroduced by U.S. Representative Jared Polis (D-CO) and Senator Al Franken (D-MN), was prompted by suicides resulting from anti-LGBT bullying of several students in recent years.

According to the bill:

“Public school students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (referred to in this Act as ‘‘LGBT’’), or are perceived to be LGBT, or who associate with LGBT people, have been and are subjected to pervasive discrimination, including harassment, bullying, intimidation, and violence, and have been deprived of equal educational opportunities, in schools in every part of the Nation.”

The SNDA is modeled after Title IX [20 USC § 1681 et seq.] of the Education Amendments of 1972 and would establish a comprehensive federal prohibition of discrimination against LGBT students in public schools. The act would also prohibit schools from discriminating against students based on actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as prohibit schools from ignoring harassment. If enacted into law, violations of the SNDA would result in the loss of federal funding and provide a legal cause of action for victims who encounter discrimination in public schools.

The legislation was first introduced in the 111th Congress and currently has 99 co-sponsors in the House and 27 co-sponsors in the Senate.

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama, lawmakers, students and parents also convened last week to discuss measures to combat bullying. Several state and federal legislators have introduced similar bills aimed at preventing bullying in public schools. In a press release, the White House said:

“Estimates are that nearly one-third of all school-aged children are bullied each year – upwards of 13 million students. Students involved in bullying are more likely to have challenges in school, to abuse drugs and alcohol, and to have health and mental health issues. If we fail to address bullying we put ourselves at a disadvantage for increasing academic achievement and making sure all of our students are college and career ready.”

The Massachusetts House of Representatives in March 2010 unanimously passed a bill seeking to prevent bullying in schools and cyberspace.

According to the SNDA, there is a special need for legislation addressing bullying of  LGBT students:

“Numerous social science studies demonstrate that discrimination, including harassment, bullying, intimidation, and violence, at school has contributed to high rates of absenteeism, dropping out, adverse health consequences, and academic underachievement, among LGBT youth.

When left unchecked, discrimination, including harassment, bullying, intimidation, and violence, in schools based on sexual orientation or gender identity can lead, and has led, to life-threatening violence and to suicide.”

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