U.S. Rep. Linda Sanchez this week introduced the Safe Schools Improvement Act, which would amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to require schools and districts receiving federal funds to adopt codes of conduct specifically prohibiting bullying and harassment, including on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity.
The measure also would require that states report data on bullying and harassment to the U.S. Department of Education, according to the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest LGBT civil rights group.
Chad Griffin, president of HRC, said on March 14, "Bullying remains an epidemic in our schools and occurs at alarming rates based on sexual orientation and gender identity. We thank Congresswoman Sanchez for her continued leadership in protecting our nation’s young people by once again introducing the Safe Schools Improvement Act."
Sanchez, in a news release, said, "We owe it to our children to protect them and make sure they have a safe and comfortable learning environment at school. We are failing our students if they are afraid to come to school because they face daily threats and intimidation. Bullying can destroy a student’s self-esteem and wreck their academic progress. No child deserves to be bullied or harassed, and it’s time we made this violent and destructive behavior a relic of the past."
LGBT-inclusive laws against the harassment and bullying of K-12 students exist in 17 states and the District of Columbia. Every other state, with the exception of Montana, has a law against bullying but lists no categories of protection.
HRC said the lack of enumeration in these state laws often means a lack of protections for LGBT students, who face abuse at a higher rate than other students. A recent survey found more than half of LGBT youth say they have been verbally harassed and called names involving anti-gay slurs.
The Senate version of the Safe Schools Improvement Act was introduced in February by Democrat Bob Casey and Republican Mark Kirk.