For too many of our children, attending school can be a frightening experience. In fact, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network’s (GLSEN’s) 2011 National School Climate Surveyfound that within the past year 81.9% of LGBT students reported being verbally harassed because of their sexual orientation and 63.9% because of their gender expression; 38.3% reported being physically harassed because of their sexual orientation and 27.1% because of their gender expression; 18.3% reported being physically assaulted at school because of their sexual orientation and 12.4% because of their gender expression. The survey also found that 60.4% of students who were harassed or assaulted in school did not report the incident to school staff, most often believing that little or no action would be take or the situation could become worse if reported. And 36.7% of the students who did report an incident said that the school staff did nothing in response. As parents, families and friends, we need to do something to make schools safer for all students, including our LGBT loved ones.
Safe Schools Improvement Act of 2013
The bill was reintroduced in the 113th Congress in the House as H.R. 1199 by Congresswoman Linda Sanchez (D-CA) on March 14, 2013, and in the Senate as S. 403 by Senator Robert Casey, Jr. (D-PA) on February 28, 2013.
What this Bill Will Do:
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 – and instruct school districts to implement a comprehensive anti-bullying policy that includes specific enumeration for sexual orientation and gender identity as well as require states to include bullying and harassment data in the statewide needs assessments, which will help collect important statewide data measuring and understanding the full scope of bullying, harassment and discrimination at school.
What You Need to Ask For:
Ask your Members of Congress to support this bill and to vote for it if it goes to the Floor. If they are not a cosponsor of the bill, ask them to become a cosponsor. Be sure to encourage them to include SSIA in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization bill. If you work for or with a local school community, please contact the PFLAG National Office to learn how you can help advance this important legislation.
PFLAG Talking Points:
- Bullying and harassment plague our nation’s schools. According to the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN)’s 2011 National School Climate Survey, more than 8 of 10 LGBT students experience some form of harassment in school, and yet only 10 states have comprehensive legislation that protects students against anti-LGBT bullying and harassment.
- Comprehensive anti-bullying and harassment policies work. Enumerated anti-bullying policies are the most effective at addressing anti-LGBT and bias-based bullying. In fact, the 2011 National School Climate Survey also reported that students in states with school policies that don’t specifically include sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (in other words, enumerated policies) are no more protected from bullying than students who live in states without any anti-bullying and/or harassment laws.
- The bill cultivates respect which will create safer schools. The bill provides language ensuring that all students have a safe learning environment which helps reduce the nation’s growing drop-out rate. Research shows that bullying and harassment are serious problems that impede students’ academic progress and overall mental health. GLSEN research has also found that nearly one-third of all students are bullied at least once a month and that one out of every ten high school drop-outs left school because of repeated bullying.
- As of September 2014, the House version of this bill has 208 cosponsors and the Senate version has 47 cosponsors.
- The bill has been referred to the House Education and Workforce and the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.
- A broad range of educational and non-educational organizations have continued support for SSIA, including the American Library Association, the National PTA, the American Federation of Teachers, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, GLSEN, and the National Council of La Raza.
Student Non-Discrimination Act of 2013
The bill was reintroduced in the 113th Congress in the House as H.R. 1652 by Congressman Jared Polis, (D-CO) and Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) on April 18, 2013 and will be introduced in the Senate soon, led by Senator Al Franken (D-MN).
What this Bill Will Do:
The Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA) would establish a comprehensive federal prohibition of discrimination in public schools based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. SNDA would provide protections for LGBT students and ensure that all students have access to public education in a safe environment free from discrimination, harassment, bullying, intimidation, and violence. SNDA would also provide meaningful and effective remedies (loss of federal funding and legal cause of action for victims) for discrimination in public schools based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, modeled after Title IX – to learn more about Title IX, please visit PFLAG National’s Claim Your Rights web resource center.
What you Need to Ask for:
Ask your Members of Congress to support this bill and to vote for it if it comes to the Floor, especially if they serve on the House Education and Workforce Committee or the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Be sure to encourage them to include SNDA in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization bill. If they are not a co-sponsor of the bill, ask them to support it by co-sponsoring. If they are already a co-sponsor please thank them. If you work for or with a local school community, please contact the PFLAG National Office to learn how you can help advance this important legislation.
PFLAG Talking Points:
- Discrimination harms our students and our education system. Every day, students who are, or who are perceived to be LGBT are subjected to pervasive discrimination, including harassment, bullying, intimidation, and violence, which is harmful to both students and our education system. Surveys indicate as many as nine in ten LGBT students have been bullied, and that LGBT youth are bullied two to three times more often than non-LGBT students.
- LGBT students lack legal protections. While federal civil rights statutes expressly address discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, disability, or national origin, they do not explicitly include sexual orientation or gender identity and, as a result, LGBT students and parents have often had limited legal recourse when they experience discrimination. Having explicit non-discrimination policies protecting students who are or are perceived to be LGBT gives teachers and administrator the tools they need to protect all students.
- The bill cultivates respect which will create safer schools. The bill provides language ensuring that all students have a safe learning environment which helps reduce the nation’s growing drop-out rate. Research shows that bullying and harassment are serious problems that impede students’ academic progress and overall mental health. Left unchecked, discrimination can lead, and has led, to life-threatening violence and to suicide. When school officials engage in discriminatory treatment, or are indifferent to harassing behavior, LGBT students’ constitutional rights are infringed upon.
- As of September 2014, the House version of this bill has 191 cosponsors and the Senate version has 43 cosponsors.
- The bill is in the first stage of the legislative process where it is being considered in the House Education and Workforce Committee and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee where it may undergo significant changes in markup sessions.
- A broad range of social service, professional and advocacy organizations have expressed support for this legislation including the American Civil Liberties Union, the American School Counselor Association, the American Federation of Teachers, the NAACP, the National Association of School Psychologists, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the National Education Association, the National Women’s Law Center, and the School Social Work Association of America.
Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act of 2014*
This bill was introduced in the House as H.R. 482 by Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) on February 4, 2013 and in the Senate as S. 2164 by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) on March 27, 2014. At the time of this publication, this bill has 38 co-sponsors in the House and eight co-sponsors in the Senate.
*This bill was originally introduced to Congress as H.R. 482 and S. 216 in 2013, but the Senate has introduced a newer version of the same bill this year: S. 2164. For legislative purposes, look at the Senate version of the bill from 2014 and the House version of the bill from 2013.
What this Bill Will Do:
The 2013 bill requires institutes of higher education that are participating in a Title IV program to submit an annual security report that includes the prohibition harassment of students by students and staff, provides descriptions of all of the programs that are enacted to prevent harassment, gives descriptions of the consequences should harassment occur, and describes the procedures followed after the report of a harassment. This will ensure that schools are making sure that students are not being harassed for any reason. It also allows the Secretary of Education to award grants to schools to introduce programs to combat bullying or make improvements upon those programs that already exist.
What You Need to Ask For
Urge your senators and representatives to become a co-sponsor of a bill that will make schools safer for all students. If they have already co-sponsored the bill, make sure to thank them.
PFLAG Talking Points:
- This bill will create more comprehensive anti-bullying programs in schools that would serve to benefit all students in institutes of higher education.
- This bill defines harassment as any action that will impede the learning process and create a hostile environment at the institute of higher learning.
- The grants that will be awarded to eligible schools will allow for schools to do more than they ever could before to prevent the harassment of students.
- At the time of this publication, there are 38 co-sponsors in the House and eight co-sponsors in the Senate.
- This bill was referred to the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training and the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.
Department of Education
Students experiencing bullying or harassment because of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity may feel helpless and unsure of how to advocate for themselves. As parents, families and friends, we try our best to protect our loved ones from these circumstances.
For those willing to advocate for a loved one being bullied, it’s important to remember to not only contact your school administrators, but also to file a complaint with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. By filing a complaint, you can not only help the Department of Education better understand the problems of bullying and harassment in the classroom, but also help them craft recommendations on how to prevent and address future bullying and harassment that occurs in the classroom. File a grievance with the Department of Education.
Changes for 2014 Announced by Department of Education
Beginning with the 2014-2015 federal student aid form, The Department of Education will for the first time collect income and other information from a dependent student’s legal parents or guardians regardless of the parents’ marital status or gender, if those parents live together. This includes same-sex couples when considering applicants for the Free Application of Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s April 29, 2013 announcement statement said:
"All students should be able to apply for federal student aid within a system that incorporates their unique family dynamics. These changes will allow us to more precisely calculate federal student aid eligibility based on what a student's whole family is able to contribute and ensure taxpayer dollars are better targeted toward those students who have the most need, as well as provide an inclusive form that reflects the diversity American families."
PFLAG National will monitor and provide updated information as it is made available, and you can call the PFLAG National Office with any questions in the interim.
Please join us by advocating for strong national policies, learning the Top 10 Ways you can Make Schools Safer… For All Students, hosting a PFLAG Cultivating Respect certification training in your community. The goal of the PFLAG Safe Schools Cultivating Respect program is to train and certify our chapter members to go directly into schools with community resources, training for the entire staff, model policy and creative programs that address bullying and harassment. After the training you will feel confident and eager to develop a safe schools program in your community. Learn more about this training.
Transgender Youth and Gender Variance
Is this child a boy or a girl or does it matter? Youth in today’s schools are increasingly fluid in their expression of gender, sometimes confusing adults and challenging those around them to think again about boy vs. girl. The workshop is designed to uncover the overlapping aspects of sexuality and clarify terminology related to gender expression and identity. Participants will also be provided with resources for transgender youth, transgender civil rights issues, recent school assessments, and available curriculum supplements for classroom use. A resource list will be provided for further study. Time will be allotted for questions and networking. To learn more about this training, contact your Field & Policy Manager.
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