Safe Schools Improvement Act
H.R. 2902; S. 311
Bullying and harassment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) students, as well as students perceived to be LGBTQ, is widespread. While current federal law provides important support to promote school safety, it does not comprehensively and expressly focus on bullying or harassment and in no way addresses the unique challenges faced by LGBTQ youth. Studies have shown that bullying and harassment of LGBTQ youth contribute to high rates of absenteeism, dropout, adverse health consequences, and academic underachievement. When left unchecked, such bullying and harassment can lead to, and has led to, dangerous situations for young people.
What is the Safe Schools Improvement Act?
The Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA) would amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to require school districts in states that receive ESEA funds to adopt codes of conduct specifically prohibiting bullying and harassment, including on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, and religion. SSIA would also require that states report data on bullying and harassment to the Department of Education. The Department of Education would then be required to provide Congress with a report on the state reported data every two years.
Growing up LGBTQ in America
LGBTQ youth experience bullying at school more frequently than their non-LGBTQ peers. In fact, according to an HRC survey of more than 10,000 LGBTQ teens, LGBTQ youth are twice as likely to experience verbal harassment, exclusion, and physical attack at school as their non-LGBTQ peers. LGBTQ youth also identify bullying as a primary problem in their lives. They identified family rejection, school/bullying problems, and fear of being out or open as the top three problems they face. In comparison, non-LGBTQ youth identified classes/exams/grades, college/career, and financial pressures as the top three problems they face. Clearly, LGBTQ youth spend time worrying about bullying and rejection, while their non-LGBTQ peers are able to focus on grades, career choices, and the future.
Broad Support from Educators and Administrators
Numerous education, health, law enforcement, and youth development organizations support federal legislation to combat bullying and harassment, including the American Federation of Teachers, American School Health Association, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Association of School Psychologists, National Association of Secondary School Principals, National Education Association, and National Parent Teacher Association.
What is the Current Status of the Bill?
SSIA was introduced in the House by Reps. Linda Sanchez (D-CA) and Chris Gibson (R-NY) on June 25, 2015 and in the Senate by Sens. Robert Casey (D-PA) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) on January 29, 2015.