The White House on Friday officially endorsed the Student Non Discrimination Act and the Safe Schools Improvement Act.
The endorsement was made by Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President. Reports the Advocate:
“The President and his Administration have taken many steps to address the issue of bullying,” according to the White House’s official statement. “He is proud to support the Student Non-Discrimination Act, introduced by Senator [Al] Franken and Congressman [Jared] Polis, and the Safe Schools Improvement Act, introduced by Senator [Bob] Casey and Congresswoman Linda Sanchez. These bills will help ensure that all students are safe and healthy and can learn in environments free from discrimination, bullying, and harassment.”
The legislation, introduced by Senator Al Franken (D-Minn), would serve to help protect all children from bullying in schools but would also specifically enumerate sexual orientation and gender identity, making it illegal for schools to discriminate against LGBT kids. It would also mandate that schools actively work to combat and deal with anti-LGBT bullying.
Said Senator Franken of the White House’s endorsement:
“There’s a lot of talk right now about the need for a law to protect our children from anti-gay bullying and discrimination. My Student Non-Discrimination Act would protect LGBT children from bullying in the same way that children are already protected from bullying because of their race, gender, disability, and religion. With today’s endorsement from the White House and 37 cosponsors in the Senate, we’re that much closer to getting a law in place that will protect our children.”
The Obama administration’s endorsement was also praised by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network’s executive director Eliza Byard:
“Today’s announcement is a vital show of support to students everywhere of all identities, backgrounds, and beliefs who face bullying and harassment in school.”
The ACLU has also lauded the president’s support. Said Ian Thompson, ACLU legislative representative, in a statement:
“Having the White House stand behind the Student Non-Discrimination Act is key to getting this necessary legislation passed into law. Our public schools should be a safe harbor for our youth, not a place of exclusion and ridicule. By passing the Student Non-Discrimination Act, Congress can have a profound and very real impact in improving the lives of LGBT students. It’s time to make passage of this bill a priority.”
While both the Student Non Discrimination Act and the Safe Schools Improvement Act have garnered bipartisan support, the legislation has so far failed to garner enough Republican backing to pass.