On Friday, the White House announced President Obama’s endorsement of the Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA) and Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA), two bills pending in Congress to address bullying and discrimination faced by students across the nation.
The Safe Schools Improvement Act (H.R. 1648) was introduced by Congresswoman Linda Sánchez in two previous sessions of Congress. The bill’s purpose is “to end discrimination based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity in public schools, and for other purposes.”
Read the complete text of the bill here.
The Student Non-Discrimination Act (H.R. 998) was introduced by Representative Jared Polis in an attempt “to end discrimination based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity in public schools, and for other purposes.”
Read the complete text of the bill here.
Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama, Valerie Jarrett, posted the following letter Friday on the White House official website.
Recently, I watched the movie Bully with my mom. We were both deeply moved by the film and the stories it tells of students, families, and communities impacted by bullying.
Earlier today, we screened Bully at the White House. We were joined by bullying prevention advocates from a range of communities – LGBT, AAPI, faith, disability, and others – as well as educational partners and key Obama Administration staff who work on these issues every day, including Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Before the film, a panel of nationally recognized experts on bullying prevention spoke from their perspectives about challenges and opportunities, and after the film, we heard from Lee Hirsch, the director and filmmaker, and several of the students and families who were directly impacted by bullying and intolerance and whose stories were featured in the film.
This film is a powerful call to action: We must do everything we can to work toward the day when no young person or family suffers the pain, agony, and loss caused by bulling in our schools and communities.
In the last few years, President Obama and his Administration have taken significant steps towards this goal.
In March of 2010, we held the first-ever White House Conference on Bullying Prevention, attended by both the President and First Lady. The conference brought together students, teachers, advocates, the private sector, and policymakers, to discuss ways to make our schools safer. President Obama explained it this way: “If there’s one goal of this conference, it’s to dispel the myth that bullying is just a harmless rite of passage or an inevitable part of growing up. It’s not.”
The President recorded a video for the It Gets Better Project, and so did the Vice President, Cabinet Secretaries, and members of the White House Staff.
The Department of Education has issued guidance to schools, colleges, and universities, making it clear that existing civil rights laws apply to bullying. Schools have not just a moral responsibility, but a legal responsibility, to protect our young people from harassment. They have also worked with states to help them in their own anti-bullying efforts, and recently released a report that documents key components of anti-bullying laws across all 50 states. And the Department of Education has issued guidance to Governors and state school officials, in order to help them incorporate the best practices for protecting students.
Read more of this letter here.
Following the White House screening of Bully U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan told the press, “Bullying can no longer be seen as a normal rite of passage. As a country, we must all work together to take action against bullying and improve the safety climates of our schools and communities. That’s why I support the Student Non-Discrimination Act and the Safe Schools Improvement Act. I would like to thank Sen. Al Franken, Sen. Bob Casey, Rep. Jared Polis and Rep. Linda Sanchez for introducing these bills and for their commitment to putting an end to bullying, discrimination and harassment in our nation’s schools. I also want to thank Rep. Danny Davis for his leadership on this issue to help keep every student safe and learning.”
Lambda Legal Deputy Legal Director Hayley Gorenberg publicly endorsed the move by the Obama administration as well. “We applaud the Obama administration for endorsing this critical piece of legislation. We thank Sen. Al Franken, Rep. Jared Polis, Rep. Barney Frank and Rep. Tammy Baldwin and over 50 other current sponsors for their leadership on this bill and we urge Congress to pass it.”
Gorenberg added, “At Lambda Legal, we’ve encountered extraordinary cases of violence and discrimination against LGBT young people in schools – and sometimes against the allies who try to support them. The Student Non-Discrimination Act takes a big step toward a safer and healthier environment in every public school. Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students have long been at a significant disadvantage without specific protection under federal law. All students have a right to a safe learning environment, and this law will leave no doubt as to public schools’ responsibility to provide it.”
National Gay & Lesbian Task Force executive director Rea Carey said, “We have a responsibility to ensure all young people are protected from this pervasive bullying, discrimination and abuse. Parents, educators, policymakers — all of us — need to stand against this unacceptable behavior. President [Obama] did that today. We urge him to now help get these life-saving bills through Congress.”
Read more about the Obama Administration’s Record for the LGBT Community.