Student Non-Discrimination Act Reintroduced in Congress

by Jennifer Pike Bailey

Pro-equality champions in the Senate and House of Representatives reintroduced the Student Non-Discrimination Act to protect LGBTQ students from discrimination.

Today, pro-equality champions in the Senate and House of Representatives reintroduced the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA)—legislation that would protect LGBTQ students from discrimination in schools throughout the country.

The legislation, which was introduced by Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., and Reps. Jared Polis, D-Colo., Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., Mark Takano, D-Calif., and Bobby Scott, D-Va., would explicitly prohibit all K-12 public schools from discriminating against any student based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 bars discrimination based on sex in education programs, and numerous federal courts have rightly interpreted this to include discrimination based on gender identity, sexual orientation and sex-stereotyping. However, many school districts and the Trump Administration continue to refuse to recognize the rights of LGBTQ students under Title IX.

In fact, the first major action that Secretary Betsy DeVos took after becoming Secretary of Education was to rescind guidance detailing schools’ obligations to protect transgender students under Title IX. Last month, the Office for Civil Rights in the Department of Education announced that it will no longer even investigate claims of discrimination by transgender students who lack access to appropriate facilities.  

LGBTQ students and their families are understandably alarmed by these developments. They already face pervasive discrimination and harassment, depriving them of equal educational opportunities in schools around the country. When students don’t feel safe or welcome in school, they face high rates of absenteeism, dropout, academic underachievement and even adverse health consequences.

SNDA has received broad support from education, civil rights, and LGBTQ advocacy organizations. In 2015, SNDA was offered as an amendment to the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. While a majority of Senators voted in favor of the amendment, including 7 Republicans, it unfortunately did not receive the 60 votes needed to proceed.

HRC is proud to work with the sponsors of the Student Non-Discrimination Act to guarantee that LGBTQ students have strong legal protections nationwide and to ensure they are safe and welcome in their schools.