Bipartisan Safe Schools Improvement Act introduced in the Senate

The Task Force applauds the reintroduction of the bipartisan Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA) S. 403 in the U.S. Senate this week by Sens. Robert Casey (D-Pa.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.). The legislation would require schools and districts receiving federal funds to adopt policies that prohibit bullying and harassment, including the categories of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

SSIA also encourages bullying prevention training of faculty and staff and that they take effective action if bullying occurs. In addition, the bill requires the statewide reporting of bullying and harassment data to the Department of Education.

According to the 2009 National School Climate Survey, LGBT students experience bullying and harassment at an alarming rate. Nearly nine out of 10 LGBT students (84.6 percent) said they’ve been harassed in the past year because of their sexual orientation and 63.7 percent because of their gender expression.

Bullying and harassment have serious consequences. Our groundbreaking report, Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, found that a staggering 41 percent of respondents reported attempting suicide compared to 1.6 percent of the general population with rates rising for those who were harassed/bullied in school (51 percent) or were the victim of physical assault (61 percent) or sexual assault (64 percent).

The Task Force brought hundreds of advocates to the Hill to lobby for this legislation during our Creating Change 2012 Lobby Day. We will continue to work with GLSEN and our partners in the National Safe Schools Partnership coalition to fight for an end to bullying and other dangerous behavior in our schools, and we commend Sens. Casey and Kirk for their leadership on this issue.