Student Non-Discrimination Act

The Problem

Students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer (LGBTQ) are subject to pervasive discrimination, including harassment, bullying, intimidation, and violence. They have been deprived of equal educational opportunities in schools in every part of our nation. Numerous studies demonstrate that discrimination at school has contributed to high rates of absenteeism, dropout, adverse health consequences, and academic underachievement among LGBTQ youth. When left unchecked, such discrimination can lead to, and has led to, dangerous situations for young people.

Federal statutory protections address discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, and disability. Unfortunately, federal civil rights laws do not expressly protect students from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Decades of civil rights history show that civil rights laws are effective in decreasing discrimination because they provide strong federal remedies targeted to specific vulnerable groups.  

What is the Student Non-Discrimination Act?

The Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA) would explicitly prohibit public schools from discriminating against any student on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. In addition, SNDA would prohibit discrimination against any student because of the actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity of a person with whom a student associates or has associated. Further, retaliation for lodging a complaint of discrimination would be prohibited. 

The bill would allow an aggrieved individual to assert a violation of these prohibitions in a judicial proceeding. In addition, SNDA would allow federal authorities to address discrimination made unlawful by the bill. 

Growing Up LGBTQ in America

LGBTQ youth experience bullying and harassment 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 as their non-LGBTQ peers. Furthermore, GLSEN’s 2015 National School Climate Survey found that 58 percent of LGBTQ students felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation and 43 percent because of their gender expression.   

Legal Context

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits discrimination based on sex in federally funded education programs and provides legal recourse to redress such discrimination. Although there have been numerous federal court rulings interpreting the sex discrimination provisions of federal civil rights laws to include discrimination based on gender identity and sex stereotyping, many school districts and the Trump administration continue to fail to recognize the rights of LGBTQ students under Title IX. Several federal courts are currently considering cases which could solidify rights for transgender students, including G.G. v. Gloucester County School Board, which was recently remanded back to the Fourth Circuit of Appeals by the Supreme Court.  

Broad Support

Numerous education, legal, health, and civil rights organizations support SNDA, including the American Association of University Women, American Federation of Teachers, American Civil Liberties Union, GLSEN, NAACP, National Association of School Psychologists, National Association of Secondary School Principals, National Council of La Raza, the National Education Association, and National Women’s Law Center.    

What was the Status of the Bill in the 114th Congress?

SNDA was introduced in the House of Representatives by Reps. Jared Polis (D-CO), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), and Bobby Scott (D-VA) and in the Senate by Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) on February 10, 2015. On July 9, 2015, Sen. Franken offered SNDA as an amendment to S. 1177, the Every Child Achieves Act. Unfortunately, the amendment failed to receive the 60 votes needed to proceed, but it gained the support of every Democratic senator and seven Republican senators.  

What is the Current Status of the Bill?

SNDA has not yet been reintroduced in the 115th Congress.


For more information, please contact legislation@hrc.org. Read about other Federal Legislation pertinent to the LGBTQ community here.

Last Updated: April 20, 2017