A statement from NCLR Federal Policy Attorney Maya Rupert, Esq.

(Washington, D.C., November 18, 2010)—Today, in an effort to call attention to the serious and pervasive issue of bullying and harassment that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth face in public schools throughout the country, a press conference was held to discuss the dire need for action to make schools safe for all students and the pending legislation designed to address this issue. The event included safe school advocates as well as members of Congress, and it highlighted potential legislative solutions, including the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA) (S. 3390/H.R. 4530) and the Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA) (S. 3739/ H.R. 2261). The event boasted a diverse group of speakers including lawmakers, celebrities, and mothers who have lost their children to suicide after being subjected to pervasive anti-LGBTQ bullying.

Currently, there is no federal law or policy that requires schools to address the issue of bullying in schools, however, legislation has been introduced in both the House and the Senate that would create federal anti-bullying protections. SSIA would require all public schools to implement comprehensive anti-bullying policies in school, while SNDA would address the unique needs of LGBTQ students and protect against bullying based on perceived sexual orientation and gender identity.

SSIA was introduced in the House by Representative Linda T. Sanchez (D-CA), with Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), and 38 original cosponsors. The legislation now has 120 bipartisan cosponsors. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) introduced SSIA in the Senate with 10 original cosponsors.

SNDA was introduced in the House by Representative Jared Polis (D-CO) and has 124 bipartisan cosponsors. Senator Al Franken (D-MN) introduced this legislation in the Senate and it currently has 25 cosponsors.

Statement from Maya Rupert, Esq., Federal Policy Attorney for National Center for Lesbian Rights:

“Bullying and harassment against LGBTQ youth in schools has become an epidemic, and we absolutely must put an end to it. Following the recent and tragic spate of suicides of LGBTQ youth that have been linked to anti-LGBTQ bullying, this issue has received significant media attention, but national attention is simply not enough. Federal legislation is needed to create safe schools for all students. The loss of lives of children due to something that we can stop is, frankly, unacceptable. All students have a right to go to school free from fear, bullying, and harassment. We urge Congress to act swiftly to enact federal anti-bullying legislation and create safe schools for all students.”

The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the civil and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.