Federal Bill Takes on School Bullying and Anti-Gay Discrimination

Equality Florida participates in White House Sponsored Live Chat

(St. Petersburg) Equality Florida applauds renewed efforts in Washington to address the epidemic of bullying in schools nationwide.

Yesterday, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) and Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) announced the introduction of the Student Non-Discrimination Act in the Senate and the House, respectively. The bill is aimed at protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth in public schools across the country from discrimination and harassment, including harassment “based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity” in public elementary and secondary schools.

In conjunction with yesterday’s announcement, the White House launched a new website, StopBullying.gov, and also hosted the White House Conference on Bullying Prevention. The new site includes a page dedicated to resources for LGBT Youth experiencing bullying due to their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

Ending bullying has been a top priority for Equality Florida for over a decade. The organization spearheaded a successful coalition effort to pass a statewide bullying bill here in Florida. The Jeffrey Johnson Stand Up for All Students Act was passed in 2008 and required every school district in the state to create an anti-bullying policy. In the years since its passage, Equality Florida has worked with local school boards to ensure LGBT students were specifically protected by their policy.

In Florida, 64% of students are specifically protected from bullying and harassment based on sexual orientation, while 43% of all students are protected from bullying based on gender identity with more school districts poised to enact these vital protections.

“Florida is ranked 4th in the nation in the number of students protected from anti-gay bullying, but we’re not finished yet.” said Brian Winfield, communications director. “While we continue to work with school districts across to state to strengthen their anti-bullying programs, we welcome the support of our federal lawmakers to ensure the 100% of Florida’s students are protected from bullying based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”

A similar bill, the Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA) was introduced Tuesday (March 8) by Senators Bob Casey, D-Pa., and Mark Kirk, R-Ill. That bill would require schools and districts receiving federal funds to implement and report on anti-bullying programs. The programs must specifically include bullying and harassment based on the actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity of students and those with whom they associate, among other attributes.

Equality Florida is the largest civil rights organization dedicated to securing full equality for Florida's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.



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