On March 10th, The Human Rights Campaign – the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization – applauded the introduction of the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA) by Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., and Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo. SNDA would prohibit public elementary and secondary schools from discriminating against any student on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. In addition, SNDA would prevent schools from discriminating against students because of the actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity of a person with whom that student associates or has associated. This is the second time SNDA has been introduced in Congress. It was first introduced in the 111th Congress by the same lead sponsors.
“Every child deserves an equal education free from discrimination, harassment and bullying. Unfortunately, LGBT students have historically been alienated, harassed, and bullied in their schools, with little or no intervention from school personnel. Far too many of these students have underperformed or dropped out in response to the lack of safety and support,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. “No student should feel scared when walking into their school and this legislation would require immediate and appropriate action to stop the discrimination that our youth have endured for far too long.”
“Education is the right of every student regardless of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. It becomes more apparent with each case that this is a problem that is not going away. Sometimes even teachers and administrators contribute to the problem,” said Rep. Polis. “The alarming increase in teen suicides has shown us just how far we are from making our children’s schools safe spaces. We must take action to protect the safety of our students and enshrine the values of equality and opportunity in our classrooms. My legislation puts LGBT students on an equal footing with their peers, so they can attend school and get a quality education free from fear.”
“Unchecked bullying of LGBT students is unacceptable,” said Sen. Franken. “The high suicide rate for LGBT youth—as witnessed across the country over the past year—shows that we are falling drastically short in our efforts to protect our kids. I’m committed to passing this legislation to ensure that all of our children know that they’re safe in their schools and have someone to turn to.”
Discrimination against students based on sexual orientation and gender identity contributes to high dropout rates, absenteeism, adverse health consequences and academic underachievement. When left unchecked, such discrimination can lead to, and has led to, dangerous situations for young people. Federal statutory and/or constitutional protections expressly address discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex and disability, but do not expressly address sexual orientation or gender identity. As a result, students and parents have limited legal recourse to redress for discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
SNDA is closely modeled after title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (20 U.S.C. §§ 1681-1688), which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex and provides legal recourse to redress such discrimination. While title IX applies to elementary schools, secondary schools and higher education institutions, SNDA exclusively applies to public elementary and secondary schools.
SNDA is has broad support from over 33 national organizations, including: The American Association of University Women, American Federation of Teachers, American Civil Liberties Union, American Psychological Association, American School Counselor Association, Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, Family Equality Council, Gay-Straight Alliance Network, GLAD (Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders), GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network), Human Rights Campaign, Lambda Legal, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), National Association of School Psychologists, National Association of School Safety and Law Enforcement Officials, National Association of Secondary School Principals, National Center for Transgender Equality, National Council of Jewish Women, National Council of La Raza, National Education Association, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund, National Women’s Law Center, PFLAG (Parents, Families, & Friends of Lesbians and Gays), People for the American Way, SAVE (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education), School Social Work Association of America, The Trevor Project and Transgender Law Center.
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