Human Rights Campaign Applauds Re-Introduction of Safe Schools Improvement Act

by HRC Staff

WASHINGTON - The Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, applauded the reintroduction of the Safe Schools Improvement Act in the U.S. House of Representatives today by Representatives Linda Sanchez (D-CA), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY). The Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA) would amend the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act (part of the No Child Left Behind 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 Act would also require that states report data on bullying and harassment to the Department of Education.

"Tragically, last month alone, two eleven-year-old boys, Carl Joseph Walker Hoover and Jaheem Herrera, took their own lives after suffering bullying by classmates who perceived them to be gay. Their deaths remind us of the true costs of anti-LGBT school bullying and harassment to our families and communities," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. "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, or are perceived to be, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. We stand with the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network in calling upon Congress to quickly pass the Safe Schools Improvement Act."

Bullying and harassment of students who are, or are 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 the 2007 National School Climate Survey conducted by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), nearly three-fifths of students reported feeling unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation, and more than a third felt unsafe because of their gender expression. In addition, 44% of LGBT students surveyed reported experiencing physical harassment and 22.1% reported being physically assaulted at school in the last year.

Numerous education, health, law enforcement and youth development organizations support federal legislation to combat bullying and harassment, including the American Association of School Administrators, American Federation of Teachers, American School Health Association, National Association of School Psychologists, National Education Association and National Parent Teacher Association.

In the 110th Congress, SSIA was introduced by Representative Linda Sanchez (D-CA) and had 80 co-sponsors in the House.

The Human Rights Campaign is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

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