More than 90 meetings held with senators, representatives and congressional staff as part of GLSEN-led advocacy summit
Parents, students and educators concerned about school safety for LGBT students met with senators, representatives and congressional staff on Tuesday, as part of GLSEN’s third annual Safe Schools Advocacy Summit. The three-day summit led by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network highlighted national support for the Safe Schools Improvement Act and the Student Non-Discrimination Act. Gerald Connolly (D-VA) committed to sign on to the Safe Schools Improvement Act as a cosponsor for the first time after today’s meetings and many offices expressed strong support for both pieces of legislation.
40 participants from 29 states shared moving personal stories that highlight the need for federal leadership to address school harassment and create schools that are welcoming for all students. More than 90 meetings took place with Congressional representatives, including every member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), sponsor of the Student Non-Discrimination Act in the House, provided encouragement to participants in a midday speech.
“Everyone deserves to feel safe at school, and these bills would make it so nobody would feel left behind or left out at all,” said Ben Noyes, a straight student from New Hampshire who was himself bullied and assaulted because he was perceived as gay and has a brother who is openly gay. “I feel good after telling Congresspeople about the bullying I've experienced since my brother came out, because they showed they care, were on board and wanted to help out.”
The Safe Schools Improvement Act was introduced with bipartisan support on March 8, 2011 by Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL). It would require schools to implement comprehensive anti-bullying policies that include enumerated characteristics of students most often targeted, such as race, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity. A House version will be introduced shortly by Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-CA).
The Student Non-Discrimination Act was introduced by Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) in the House and Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) in the Senate on March 10, 2011. The Student Non-Discrimination Act would make discrimination in schools based on sexual orientation or gender identity against the law. It seeks to prevent the exclusion of students from full participation in school sanctioned events, and includes an exemption for religious schools.
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.