Student Non-Discrimination Act

115th Congress: H.R. 5374; S. 2584

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 K-12 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 high rates of discrimination and harassment at school. GLSEN’s 2015 National School Climate Survey found that 8 in 10 LGBTQ students reported that their school engaged in LGBTQ-related discriminatory policies or practices, with two-thirds saying that they personally experienced this anti-LGBTQ discrimination. According to a survey by HRC and the University of Connecticut of more than 17,000 LGBTQ youth, transgender youth are particularly vulnerable to discrimination. Less than one in five transgender youth say they are always called by their correct pronoun and only a third are called by their correct name in school. Far too many transgender students aren’t allowed to use the restroom that corresponds with their gender identity, or they don’t feel safe doing so. Half of all transgender students are never able to use the correct restroom or locker room at school, and shockingly, more than a third of these students don’t use any restroom at all throughout the school day. This poses serious health risks to students and compromises their educational opportunities.

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, sexual orientation, 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 LGBTQ students. 

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, the National Education Association, National Women’s Law Center, and UnidosUS.   

What was the Status of the Bill in the 115th Congress?

SNDA was reintroduced in the House of Representatives by Reps. Jared Polis (D-CO), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Mark Takano (D-CA), and Bobby Scott (D-VA) and in the Senate by Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) on March 21, 2018. 

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

Last Updated: December 21, 2018