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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 1, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 13
Parents, students, and teachers ask Congress to support school bullying bills
Section One
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Parents, students, and teachers ask Congress to support school bullying bills

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

On March 29, parents, students, and educators concerned about school safety for LGBT students met with senators, representatives, and congressional staff on as part of GLSEN's third annual Safe Schools Advocacy Summit.

According to GLSEN officials, the three-day summit highlighted national support for the Safe Schools Improvement Act and the Student Non-Discrimination Act. Gerald Connolly (D-Va.) committed to sign on to the Safe Schools Improvement Act as a cosponsor for the first time after Tuesday's meetings and many offices expressed strong support for both pieces of legislation said GLSEN.

Forty participants from 29 states shared moving personal stories that highlight the need for federal leadership to address school harassment and create schools that are welcoming for all students. More than 90 meetings took place with Congressional representatives, including every member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), sponsor of the Student Non-Discrimination Act in the House, provided encouragement to participants in a midday speech.

'Everyone deserves to feel safe at school, and these bills would make it so nobody would feel left behind or left out at all,' said Ben Noyes, a straight student from New Hampshire who was himself bullied and assaulted because he was perceived as Gay and has a brother who is openly Gay. 'I feel good after telling congresspeople about the bullying I've experienced since my brother came out, because they showed they care, were on board, and wanted to help out.'

The Safe Schools Improvement Act was introduced with bipartisan support on March 8, by Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.). It would require schools to implement comprehensive anti-bullying policies that include enumerated characteristics of students most often targeted, such as race, religion, sexual orientation, and gender identity. A House version will be introduced shortly by Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.).

The Student Non-Discrimination Act was introduced by Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) in the House and Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) in the Senate on March 10. The Student Non-Discrimination Act would make discrimination in schools based on sexual orientation or gender identity against the law. It seeks to prevent the exclusion of students from full participation in school-sanctioned events, and includes an exemption for religious schools.

GLSEN - the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network - is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. Established in 1990, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. GLSEN seeks to develop school climates where difference is valued for the positive contribution it makes to creating a more vibrant and diverse community. For information on GLSEN's research, educational resources, public policy advocacy, student organizing programs, and educator training initiatives, visit www.glsen.org.

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