Safe Schools Improvement Act reintroduced today

The Task Force applauds today’s reintroduction of the bipartisan Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA) in the U.S. Senate today by Sen. Robert Casey (D-Pa.) and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.). The legislation would require schools and districts receiving federal funds to adopt policies that prohibit bullying and harassment, including on the basis of sexual orientation and 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 9 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, the recent 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).

These statistics are unacceptable. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force 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 Sen. Casey and Sen. Kirk for their leadership on this issue.

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama posted a video on Facebook to promote a bullying prevention conference they’ll host tomorrow at the White House. Watch the video here.