NEW YORK - GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, is honored that Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) has announced his support of the Safe Schools Improvement Act by signing on as a cosponsor of the legislation, becoming the first Republican to do so. The federal anti-bullying bill, which includes protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression and was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) in August, now has 15 bipartisan cosponsors.
"I am an advocate for the Safe Schools Improvement Act because every student should feel safe in school and know that discrimination of any kind will not be tolerated," said Kirk, who cosponsored a similar measure in the House.
The Safe Schools Improvement Act, which is endorsed by the more than 75 members of the GLSEN-led National Safe Schools Partnership, will require comprehensive anti-bullying policies in our nation's public schools. The bill was introduced in the House last year by Rep. Linda Sanchez and has 128 bipartisan cosponsors.
"GLSEN applauds Senator Kirk for demonstrating his commitment to the well-being of all of our nation's students by supporting this potentially lifesaving bill in the Senate," GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard said. "We need the leadership of each and every member of Congress to ensure that all students can go to school and be safe and free to learn."
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. The study also 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 creates significant adverse effects on students' academic performance, as well as other, more severe consequences. No federal law or policy exists that requires schools to address the problem and existing state laws vary greatly in their breadth and effectiveness.
TAKE ACTION HERE: Ask your senator to be a cosponsor, or thank your senator for signing on!
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.
About the National Safe Schools Partnership
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. To that end, members of the Partnership have joined together in support of federal policy recommendations based on long-standing research and experience.