HRC Blog

Senators Casey & Kirk Reintroduce Safe Schools Improvement Act

Today HRC along with the National Education Association applauded the reintroduction of the Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA) in the U.S. Senate by Sen. Robert Casey (D-PA) and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL). SSIA would amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to require schools and districts receiving federal funds to adopt codes of conduct specifically prohibiting bullying and harassment, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.  The SSIA would also require that states report data on bullying and harassment to the Department of Education.  Additionally, the SSIA would require the Department of Education to provide Congress with a report on the state reported data, along with other specified data, every two years.

In a statement, HRC President Joe Solmonese said: “The mental and emotional well-being of too many young people has been put at risk because they were bullied or harassed at school. We place our children in grave danger when we fail to adequately help school administrators and teachers create safe learning environments for all students, including those who are actually or perceived to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.” 

NEA President Dennis Van Roekel commented: “Every child has a right to a safe place to learn. NEA strongly supports the Safe Schools Improvement Act and ridding schools of bullying and harassment. Our children are America’s greatest resource. And as educators, we want nothing more than to create a climate of civility and respect for all students, including LGBT students, in every public school.”

In introducing the bill, Sen. Casey also said: “I am pleased to introduce the Safe Schools Improvement Act to help ensure that every child receives a quality education that builds self-confidence. This bill is a crucial step towards ensuring that no child is so afraid to go to school that he or she stays home for fear of bullying.”

Bullying and harassment of students who are actually or perceived to be LGBT is widespread. While current federal law provides important support to promote school safety, it does not comprehensively and expressly focus on issues of bullying or harassment, and in no way addresses the challenges faced by LGBT youth in our nation’s schools.

In addition to Senators Casey and Kirk, original co-sponsors of SSIA (S. 506) are Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), John Kerry (D-MA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Barbara Mikulski (MD), Patty Murray (D-WA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).  More senators are likely to sign on as co-sponsors in the coming days.  Please look up your Senators and thank them for being original an co-sponsor or to ask them to sign on.

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