Post submitted by Josh King, Former HRC Senior Public Policy Advocate
Yesterday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee completed its markup of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The legislation, introduced by Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA), contained several important provisions that will have a positive impact on the life of LGBT students. Section 4 of the bill, Successful, Safe and Healthy Students, contains a competitive grant program for schools that include anti-bullying policies that are inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity, among other categories. These provisions are taken from the Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA, S. 506) led by Senator Robert Casey (D-PA).
Additionally, Chairman Harkin included the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA, S. 1088), which has been championed by Senator Al Franken (D-MN). The SNDA would prohibit public schools from discriminating against students based on their sexual orientation or gender identity and would provide meaningful and effective remedies to address such discrimination. While Federal statutory and/or constitutional protections expressly address discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex and disability, no federal statute expressly prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. As a result, students and parents have limited legal recourse to redress for discrimination on these bases.
The Human Rights Campaign is pleased that these provisions were not amended during the markup and will work to ensure these provisions remain intact as ESEA is considered by the full Senate.