New Push by US Senate Hopes to Protect LGBT Youth in Schools
Image via Equality California
Senators Al Franken (D-Minn) and Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) reintroduced two different measures to the Senate on Tuesday that would provide protections to LGBT youth in US schools.
Harkin, who is a Committee Chairman on the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions board, reintroduced the No Child Left Behind Act with new language, according to LGBTQ Nation. The new language would reduce or eliminate funding for schools that would fail to take strong stand against bullying and/or discrimination against LGBT students.
The Elementary and Secondary Education Act, also known as the No Child Left Behind, has been expired since 2007 and has been a hot button issue in Congress. The education committee are scheduled to address the legislation on June 11, but a vote on it has not been scheduled and Democratic aides are saying it might not happen until Autumn.
Lawmakers are hoping to overhaul the requirements of the bill to allow states to write a certain amount of their own laws to address the needs of students in their own states. Lawmakers, including Harkin, are well aware that the bill had previously caused headaches in some states. Harkin said the previous requirements, “set inflexible benchmarks without considering the different needs of schools and without recognizing student progress. Instead, the bill would offer states greater flexibility to improve students’ education.”
Harkin’s provision for protections in No Child Left Behind are commendable, but it could be sometime before the Act passes in this sessions bickering Congress. Republican Lawmakers are especially skeptical about renewing the act, believing that they do not have to tell local schools how they need to teach their students.
In an attempt to get legislation that would provide those protections to LGBT students sooner, Franken reintroduced the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA) as a stand alone act.
“No child should dread going to school because they don’t feel safe,” said Franken.
The Human Rights Campaign recently released a survey of LGBT youth showing they are twice as likely to experience verbal harassment, exclusion and physical harm at school compared to their non-LGBT classmates. The report also goes on to say that 64 percent of LGBT teens report that they do no participate in any after-school or other recreational activities for fear of being discriminated against.
SNDA was introduced earlier in the year in the U.S. House of Representatives by Reps. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.)
“Our nation’s civil rights laws protect our children from bullying due to race, sex, religion, disability, and national origin,” Franken said. “My proposal extends these protections to our gay and lesbian students who shouldn’t ever feel afraid of going to school.”
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