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Safe Schools Improvement Act Introduced in the U.S. Senate

Safe Schools Improvement Act Introduced in the U.S. Senate

A federal anti-bullying bill that would protect students based on their sexuality or gender identity/expression was introduced into the U.S. Senate on Thursday.

The bill, the Safe Schools Improvement Act, was introduced by Senator Robert Casey (D-PA) and currently has 10 co-sponsors.

The Act would create comprehensive and standardized anti-bullying policies which, for the first time, would include protections on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity as well as other recognized protected classes such as religion and national origin.

The bill was first introduced into the U.S. House by Representative Linda Sanchez in January, 2009. It garnered a bipartisan 119 cosponsors and sits in the House Committee for Education and Labor waiting to be taken up.

What is the Purpose of the Safe Schools Improvement Act?

The Safe Schools Improvement Act or SSIA would call on schools and districts that receive federal funds to adopt anti-bullying policies and codes of conduct that specifically prohibit bullying or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation and perceived or actual gender identity.

Of course, the bill would also create stricter and more uniform policies for dealing with and preventing all forms of bullying, not just ones tied to a specific characteristic.

Crucially, the Act would also mandate that states catalog and report data on bullying and harassment to the Department of Education.

The Safe Schools Improvement Act Defines Bullying As:
[Conduct that] adversely affects the ability of one or more students to participate in or benefit from the school’s educational programs or activities by placing the student (or students) in reasonable fear of physical harm.

The Safe Schools Improvement Act Defines Harassment As:
[Conduct that] adversely affects the ability of one or more students to participate in or benefit from the school’s educational programs or activities because the conduct, as reasonably perceived by the student (or students), is so severe, persistent, or pervasive.

Why is the Safe Schools Improvement Act Needed?

Commenting on the bill’s introduction, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) said:

“GLSEN would like to thank Senator Casey for introducing this potentially lifesaving bill in the Senate,” GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard said.

“Our nation has failed to address the pervasive problem of bullying and harassment in schools for far too long. Countless youth are denied access to an education every day because they do not feel safe in school. Passing the Safe Schools Improvement Act would go a long way toward laying the necessary foundation of support lacking in many American schools.”

Nearly two-thirds of middle and high school students (65%) said they had been bullied in school in the past year, according to From Teasing to Torment: School Climate in America, a 2005 report from GLSEN and Harris Interactive that surveyed more than 3,000 students.

LGBT students face even higher levels of victimization. Nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT students (86.4%) said they had been harassed in the past year, according to GLSEN’s 2007 National School Climate Survey of more than 6,000 LGBT students. Additionally, 60.8% said they felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation.

Bullying creates significant adverse academic and other consequences for students. No federal law or policy exists that requires schools to address the problem, and existing state laws vary greatly in their breadth and effectiveness.

“Bullying is a national public health crisis that demands a national solution,” said mother Sirdeaner Walker, whose 11-year-old son Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover took his life in Springfield, Mass., last year after enduring constant anti-gay bullying at school. “As a mother who knows the painful consequences of inaction, I urge Congress to pass the Safe Schools Improvement Act and give schools the tools they need to make their hallways and classrooms safer for all students.”…

Those who are familiar with the story of Constance McMillen will be aware of how it took a court battle to ensure that Itawamba County School District enacted a non-discrimination policy to protect LGBT students, a length that no teenager should have to resort to in order to ensure that students will not be discriminated against in school, either by fellow pupils or by school officials, based on their gender/gender identity, race, sexuality or disability.

Is Your Senator a Cosponsor of the Safe Schools Improvement Act? You can check here, thank you senator for their support, or urge them to sponsor.

You can also read the text of the Safe Schools Improvement Act here.

 

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Photo used under the Creative Commons Attribution License, with thanks to Samm4mrox

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125 comments

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10:04AM PDT on Oct 25, 2010

The hatred has to stop at home first..parents are the worst bullies there are. The teach their children the hate and prejudice. But I am in full support of the bill but the parents need to be involved in the bill and how the schools enforce the bill if it passes (pray that it does). Parents need to learn to teach their children that it is not a crime to be different whether it is being homosexual, a different color, overweight, or anything that isn' t the "norm".

10:51AM PDT on Sep 12, 2010

Why doesn't this law cover bullying in all its facets? As a teacher for 26 years, I have seen gay, and straight children, sat upon, and spat upon. Children have to be taught not to HATE - period.

7:09AM PDT on Aug 14, 2010

Hurray for this law! Let's hope it gets enforced! Schools need to be safe places. Educating acceptance and understanding of differences can ending bullying. Whether it's picking on someone who is fat or has a zit or is an immigrant from another country, and or feels different because they are gay, lesbian, bi-sexual or transgender and or perceived to be, and or have LGBT parents, a sister, a brother, a cousin, an uncle, a teacher or a friend. Bullying must be stopped by our school administrators and teachers. No one wants to be tolerated. We need to model and teach acceptance and understanding and educate about differences that exist without shame. We do not have to agree with all behaviors, like overeating, but there are enact, root and hormonal causes that are often beyond our control. A person can not control who they are attracted to. What would you want the school to do if your child was being bullied because they were perceived to be different?
Thanks to the Senators who are supporting this bill.

7:09AM PDT on Aug 14, 2010

Hurray for this law! Let's hope it gets enforced! Schools need to be safe places. Educating acceptance and understanding of differences can ending bullying. Whether it's picking on someone who is fat or has a zit or is an immigrant from another country, and or feels different because they are gay, lesbian, bi-sexual or transgender and or perceived to be, and or have LGBT parents, a sister, a brother, a cousin, an uncle, a teacher or a friend. Bullying must be stopped by our school administrators and teachers. No one wants to be tolerated. We need to model and teach acceptance and understanding and educate about differences that exist without shame. We do not have to agree with all behaviors, like overeating, but there are enact, root and hormonal causes that are often beyond our control. A person can not control who they are attracted to. What would you want the school to do if your child was being bullied because they were perceived to be different?
Thanks to the Senators who are supporting this bill.

1:12AM PDT on Aug 14, 2010

OK Aaron Baker - Since you OBVIOUSLY didn't even read the article, or maybe you think because YOU were bullied all your life (because you're Queer?) you think it's ok that everyone else should have to 'tough it out' eh? Or just maybe it made YOU the bully? Also if you're going to be "sick and tired of the term "GLBT" - you should at least get it right (it's LGBT- Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender). It is NOT being shoved in your face any more than you shove your stand for SELECTIVE RIGHTS in everyone's face. Bigots don't have 'Exclusive Rights' to a belief in God either or their God's love. So, you continue preaching your hate and we will keep reminding you that we are ALL Created Equal.

9:15PM PDT on Aug 13, 2010

First of all, I am sick and tired of the term "GLBT". HOMOSEXUALITY is HOMOSEXUALITY. Are you people afraid to call your sinful lifestyle for what it is. Secondly, I was bullied all throughout my childhood and uet I am not making a big fuss about it. The problem is the fact that those who choose to live the HOMOSEXUAL lifestyle are shoving it in everyone's face and if you disagree with them, you are accused of either being a bully or "hating" them. We have that right to disagree and stand up for what we believe to be wrong according GOD. And if you dont believe in GOD, Nature itself tells you that it is unnatural.

12:31PM PDT on Aug 13, 2010

We adults are the ones who teach violence, hate, bigotry, racism to our children. Wonder why we have the fullest prisons in the world? Maybe it's parents and teachers saying 'let them work it out', that has promoted violence, and teachers unable to teach because of parents allowing the disrespect. There is a school in the Bronx I think, that promotes friendship & kindness starting at the elementary level. They have no fights, or bullying- look at the guns and bombs kids are trying, and some managing to. You allowed the bullying, you have not enforced no bullying and it's as a bullied receiver, I rightfully blame the adults,us.

9:12AM PDT on Aug 13, 2010

Great news!

4:22AM PDT on Aug 12, 2010

Yes, Charles W. why the prejudice? and you too lorraine c, quit making this something other than what it is. Bullying has NEVER been ok, whether it's because the kid doesn't wear 'name brands,' is just smart or challenged, or even 'suspected' of being gay. Bullying should not be tolerated by schools for any reason, all of which are WRONG. All kids are in school to learn and should not have to tolerate bullying - even if they are gay.

12:08AM PDT on Aug 12, 2010

Obviously several people leaving comments didn't read the entire article. It's not just LGBT kids, it includes all kids as follows:
What is the Purpose of the Safe Schools Improvement Act?
The Safe Schools Improvement Act or SSIA would call on schools and districts that receive federal funds to adopt anti-bullying policies and codes of conduct that specifically prohibit bullying or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation and perceived or actual gender identity.

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