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Sen. Franken, Rep. Polis Reintroduce Bill to End Bullying of LGBT Students

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Today, U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) held a press conference to announce that they have reintroduced legislation that would help protect public school students from bullying, harassment, and discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Also attending the press conference were Wendy Walsh, whose 13-year-old son, Seth, took his own life after being bullied at school and Ellen Kahn from the Human Rights Campaign.

"Unchecked bullying of LGBT students is unacceptable," said Sen. Franken. "The high suicide rate for LGBT youth-as witnessed across the country over the past year-shows that we are falling drastically short in our efforts to protect our kids. I'm committed to passing this legislation to ensure that all of our children know that they're safe in their schools and have someone to turn to."

"Education is the right of every student regardless of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity," said Rep. Polis. "It becomes more apparent with each case that this is a problem that is not going away--sometimes even teachers and administrators contribute to the problem. The alarming increase in teen suicides has shown us just how far we are from making our children's schools safe spaces. We must take action to protect the safety of our students and enshrine the values of equality and opportunity in our classrooms. My legislation puts LGBT students on an equal footing with their peers, so they can attend school and get a quality education free from fear."

Sen. Franken and Rep. Polis first introduced the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA) in 2010. Currently, the bill has 28 cosponsors in the Senate and 87 cosponsors in the House. The bill would establish a comprehensive federal prohibition against discrimination in public schools based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. It would also forbid schools from discriminating against LGBT students or ignoring harassing behavior. Modeled after Title IX, violation of SNDA would result in the loss of federal funding and give victims a legal cause of action for discrimination in public schools based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

In November, Sen. Franken was joined by Minnesotan Tammy Aaberg, whose son committed suicide after he faced in-school bullying, at a press conference to announce that he plans to include his legislation as a part of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. As a member of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee (HELP), Sen. Franken will play a key role in crafting the specific provisions that will make up the education bill.

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