NEW YORK - The Illinois House of Representatives unanimously passed an enumerated anti-bullying bill today that includes protections from bullying on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.
The Senate passed the bill last month. The bill now goes to Gov. Pat Quinn, who is expected to sign the bill.
If signed, Illinois will become the ninth state to enact an enumerated anti-bullying that includes a list of characteristics most often targeted by bullies, which research shows is more effective than a general anti-bullying law.
"Illinois schools are about to get safer for all students. GLSEN applauds the Illinois legislature for taking comprehensive action against all forms of bullying and ensuring that all students are protected under the law," GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard said. "Such widespread support for an enumerated bill gives us even more hope that Congress will follow suit and pass the Safe Schools Improvement Act so that students across the country will have the same protections that are coming to Illinois schools.
"We also applaud the hard work of our partner organization, the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance, whose dedication to safe schools and leadership on this effort made this victory possible."
LGBT students in particular in Illinois face extreme victimization. Inside Illinois Schools: The Experiences of LGBT Students, a research brief based on Illinois students who participated in GLSEN's 2007 National School Climate Survey, found that 89% of LGBT students in Illinois had been verbally harassed in the past year because of their sexual orientation.
Having an enumerated anti-bullying policy can make a difference and improve school climate. GLSEN's From Teasing to Torment: A Report on School Climate in Illinois found that 75% of students at schools without enumerated policies reported that they heard homophobic remarks often or very often from other students, versus 54% of students at schools with enumerated anti-bullying policies.
The eight other states that have enumerated anti-bullying laws are California, Iowa, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.
Three additional states (Colorado, Maine and Minnesota) have nondiscrimination laws that include protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression, which GLSEN considers necessary for a state to have a safe schools laws.
The Safe Schools Improvement Act is a federal anti-bullying bill introduced in the House with 103 bipartisan cosponsors that would require schools that receive federal funding to have enumerated anti-bullying policies.
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.