New efforts show growing federal leadership to address student safety
New York - GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, stands with a broad coalition of LGBT and youth development organizations in celebrating today's reintroduction of the Safe Schools Improvement Act (S.506). Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) joined lead cosponsor Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) and 17 total cosponsors to introduce for the first time a Senate bill with bipartisan support that specifically addresses bullying and harassment due to actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.
The Safe Schools Improvement Act, which is endorsed by the over 80 members of the GLSEN-led National Safe Schools Partnership, would require schools to implement comprehensive anti-bullying policies that address bullying and harassment and ensure the safety and well-being of all their students. In the last Congress, the Senate and House versions finished the Congress with, respectively, 17 and 131 bipartisan cosponsors. A bipartisan House bill is also expected to be introduced in the coming weeks by Rep. Linda Sanchez.
"Anti-LGBT harassment hurts the children of both Democrats and Republicans, as do all of the forms of bullying and harassment addressed by this important bill," GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard said. "Senators Casey and Kirk show we all share a common vision of schools that keep students safe and focused on learning.
"We are pleased to join our partners in the National Safe Schools Partnership to voice our strong continuing support for the Safe Schools Improvement Act. We thank Senators Casey and Kirk and all the cosponsors for recognizing the need for federal leadership to address a public health crisis affecting youth across the country."
No federal law or policy exists that requires schools to adopt policies to address bullying, and existing state laws vary greatly in their breadth and effectiveness.
Said Sen. Casey: "I am pleased to introduce the Safe Schools Improvement Act to help ensure that every child receives a quality education that builds self-confidence. 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."
Nearly two-thirds of middle and high school students (65%) said they had been bullied in school in the past year, 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. Students at schools with a comprehensive anti-bullying policy similar to the one required by the Safe Schools Improvement Act were less likely than other students to report a serious harassment problem at their school (33% vs. 44%).
LGBT students experience bullying and harassment at an even more alarming rate. Nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT students (84.6%) said they've been harassed in the past year because of their sexual orientation and 63.7% because of their gender expression.
Led by GLSEN, The National Safe Schools Partnership is an informal coalition of leading national education, health, civil rights, disability rights, youth development and other organizations committed to ensuring that America's schools are safe for all children. Members of the National Safe Schools Partnership include the American Association of School Administrators, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, and the National Association of School Psychologists.
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.