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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August 13, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 33
GLSEN lauds introduction of Safe Schools Improvement Act in Senate
Section One
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GLSEN lauds introduction of Safe Schools Improvement Act in Senate

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, praised the August 5 introduction of the Safe Schools Improvement Act - a federal anti-bullying bill that includes protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression - in the Senate by Senator Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and 10 cosponsors.

If passed, the Safe Schools Improvement Act, endorsed by nearly 70 members of the GLSEN-led National Safe Schools Partnership, would require comprehensive anti-bullying policies in U.S. public schools.

The bill was introduced in the House last year by Representative Linda Sanchez and has 119 bipartisan cosponsors.

"Our nation has failed to address the pervasive problem of bullying and harassment in schools for far too long," GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard said. "Countless youth are denied access to an education every day because they do not feel safe in school. Passing the Safe Schools Improvement Act would go a long way toward laying the necessary foundation of support lacking in many American schools."

According to From Teasing to Torment: School Climate in America, a 2005 report from GLSEN and Harris Interactive that surveyed more than 3,000 students, nearly two-thirds of middle and high school students (65%) said they had been bullied in school in the past year.

LGBT students face even higher levels of victimization. Nearly nine out of 10 LGBT students (86.4%) said they had been harassed in the past year, according to GLSEN's 2007 National School Climate Survey of more than 6,000 LGBT students. Additionally, 60.8% said they felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation.

Both studies, however, found that students at schools with a comprehensive anti-bullying policy similar to the one required by the Safe Schools Improvement Act, which includes enumerated characteristics of students most often targeted, reported harassment at a significantly reduced rate.

"Bullying and harassment affect millions of students every year. While we do have federal laws to provide support to promote school safety, there is nothing currently in place to comprehensively and expressly address issues of bullying or harassment," said Senator Casey. "This bill is a crucial step towards ensuring that no child is so afraid to go to school that he or she stays home for fear of bullying."

In some cases, bullying has led students - some still in grade school - to take their own lives. "Bullying is a national public health crisis that demands a national solution," said Sirdeaner Walker, whose 11-year-old son Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover took his life in Springfield, Massachusetts last year after enduring constant bullying at school. "As a mother who knows the painful consequences of inaction, I urge Congress to pass the Safe Schools Improvement Act and give schools the tools they need to make their hallways and classrooms safer for all students."

GLSEN, established in 1990, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. The National Safe Schools Partnership, led by GLSEN, is an informal coalition of leading national education, health, civil rights, law enforcement, youth development, and other organizations committed to ensuring that America's schools are safe for all children.

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