Safe Schools Improvement Act: This year saw major advances in our top federal legislative priority, The Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA) which would, among other things, require almost every school in the country to adopt enumerated anti-bullying policies. The House bill (HR 2262), finished the Congress with a record 131 co-sponsors, including six Republicans. There were 79 co-sponsors in the 110th Congress. In addition, 2010 saw the first Senate version of SSIA (S.3390) was introduced by Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and finished the Congress with 17 co-sponsors. Much time and energy was spent securing a Republican Senate co-sponsor and we succeeded in getting Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois to sign on just before Congress went out of session.
Student Nondiscrimination Act: This bill, which would provide Title IX-like protections to LGBT students, was introduced for the first time this year in the House and Senate by Representative Jared Polis of Colorado and Senator Al Franken of Minnesota. The text of the Student Nondiscrimination Act (SNDA) came directly from language that GLSEN had developed and circulated several years ago and would add crucial protections for LGBT students. We worked closely with both sponsor offices and SNDA finished the Congress with 126 co-sponsors in the House and 31 co-sponsors in the Senate.
Safe Schools Advocacy Summit: The 2010 Safe School Advocacy Summit (SSAS) was our most successful to date. SSAS brought together 37 participants from 26 states for four days of training on policy, organizing and advocacy. On the final day of SSAS participants met with each of their Senators and Representatives, or their staff--for a total of 85 meetings. At each meeting, participants lobbied their representatives on the Safe Schools Improvement Act and the Student Non-Discrimination Act. Within the four months that followed SSAS, 11 of those offices signed on to SSIA in the House; 12 offices signed on to SNDA in the House and 14 signed on to SNDA in the Senate.
Press Briefing: This year GLSEN took the lead on two briefings. The first was a briefing on the Student Nondiscrimination Act which included a GLSEN speaker as well as other speakers we secured and prepped.
In November, we organized a Press Briefing on the Safe Schools Improvement Act and the Student Nondiscrimination Act. This briefing included all four lead co-sponsors of the bills (Senators Casey and Franken; Representatives Linda Sanchez and Jared Polis); two mothers of young men lost to suicide (Tammy Aaberg and Sirdeaner Walker); two celebrities (Louis Van Amstel and Clay Aiken); as well as Joey Kemmerling, Student Ambassador; Eliza Byard, Executive Director; and Kathleen Minke, National Association of School Psychologists. We also engaged our visiting guests in visits to Senate offices and through this managed to secure face-to-face meetings with Senators Scott Brown, Kay Hagan and Tom Harkin - all of whom have potential to be key leaders on the Safe Schools Improvement Act.
National Safe Schools Partnership: The National Safe Schools Partnership (NSSP) remains a key component of our work at the federal level. In 2010, we have added at least twenty new organizations to the partnership bringing our total number of organizations to 76. We expect this number to keep growing as we are in ongoing discussion with other organizations who have expressed an interest in joining but have not yet signed on. Most of the gains in our partnership list have been groups that represent a category that had been underrepresented within the partnership. A few specific examples include the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism (religious groups), United Cerebal Palsy (disability groups) and the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (people of color groups). We have increased our communications with the partnership both in number (by holding more regular meetings) and in intensity (by bringing partner groups together on lobbying visits).
GLSEN Policy staff continue to play key leadership roles in the National Safe Schools Roundtable (NSSR). The Public Policy Director serves as a member of the Steering Committee and as the Chair of the Policy Subgroup; GLSEN's Public Policy Associate also serves on that subgroup. Together they have driven forward two major NSSR projects - the creation of a multi-organization Model Bullying, Harassment and Discrimination Policy as well as a state-by-state overview of safe schools laws. We have continued to build relationships with coalitions such as Dignity in Schools which focuses on issues such as the school-to-prison pipeline and the disparate impact of discipline on communities of color. GLSEN Public Policy staff are also active members of several other policy-based coalitions such as the LCCHR Education Task Force, the Committee for Education Funding and the Student Health Action Coalition
State/Local Legislation and Policies
State Legislation: GLSEN provided key leadership in the passage of Dignity for All Students Act in New York State. This is a legislative effort that GLSEN has been engaged in for ten years and New York was one of the last large states that had not squarely addressed the issue of LGBT-based bullying and harassment. GLSEN also provided support to a successful effort to pass an enumerated anti-bullying bill in Illinois and to efforts to pass additional state legislation on this issue in Washington State.
Although there were major barriers that made getting an enumerated law passed in Massachusetts very unlikely, we were heavily engaged in that effort and were able to get some key concessions in how the other organizations communicated about this law. We negotiated directly with the office of the Attorney General to get their assurance that the state's model policy would be fully enumerated.
In Mississippi, we provided intensive support to the Mississippi Safe Schools Coalition which worked hard on an enumerated bill. Although in the end a generic bill ultimately was passed, we were able to get an enumerated bill passed through the House which was a significant advancement.
In New Hampshire, we worked directly with the sponsor to provide support and advice on the subject of enumeration and were able to get enumeration included into the findings section of that bill.
In Tennessee, we partnered with state organizations to successfully beat back a No-Promo-Homo law. In the District of Columbia, we led a coalition of organizations supporting an anti-bullying bill. Our work on this included assisting with the drafting and coordinating a day of testimony in front of the City Council. This bill is likely to pass in 2011.
Local Policies: We successfully worked with local organizations to pass fully enumerated anti-bullying or nondiscrimination policies in a number of school districts, including Dallas, Texas; Salt Lake City, Utah; Jackson, Mississippi and the Anoka-Hennepin School District in Michigan. These districts are the latest in a line of previous successes where GLSEN resources and advice played a key role including Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and Cobb County, Georgia.
Federal Agency Work
Claim Your Rights:
Working with PFLAG as an educational partner and with approval and assistance from the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights (OCR), GLSEN embarked on the creation of a new resource that would explain to the general public when the bullying, harassment and discrimination of LGBT students was actionable under Title IX and how those affected by such behavior could pursue remedies by filing a complaint with OCR. We are already aware of several complaints that have been filed using this resource as a guide and in early 2011, we had news of a very positive settlement that had already been reached in one such case.
Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS): GLSEN has been a lead player in an ongoing effort to accomplish two goals concerning federal data collection and LGBT students. One is to get more states and localities to adopt questions on sexual orientation for their state/local surveys. The other is to move forward the possibility of a trans-specific question which would be adopted by the federal government to include in their list of optional questions. This has been quite successful in that over a dozen states and localities have agreed to include sexual orientation questions on their surveys. In addition the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have agreed to work with us on the development of a model trans-specific question.
In 2010, GLSEN created and revised resources designed to provide tools for GLSEN constituents and the general public to engage in policy work in a variety of ways. We substantially revised our Model State Legislation
and created a separate Model District Policy
where these concepts had originally been incorporated into one document which made it somewhat difficult to navigate. At the same time, we created a Model School Policy
to ensure that efforts to improve school safety could happen at the school level as well. We also created The Safe Schools Improvement Act Action Kit
which was designed to provide a path for any interested group or individual to advocate for the SSIA at the district level.