U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, teamed up with 30 of his colleagues to reintroduce the Student Non-Discrimination Act on Tuesday to help protect public school students from bullying, harassment, and discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
"Bullying is destroying the lives of too many children and ripping the fabric of our communities apart," Senator Coons, an outspoken advocate on LGBT issues, said. "We must protect students from these harmful acts and ensure all individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, are able to learn in an environment that's free from discrimination. I encourage my colleagues to stand on the side of equality."
In addition to being reintroduced on its own Tuesday, the Student Non-Discrimination Act was also added to the Strengthening All Schools Act, which would reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act -- also known as "No Child Left Behind." The Strengthening All Schools Act was also introduced Tuesday.
Surveys indicate that nearly eight in 10 LGBT students have been bullied. The harassment LGBT youth experience in school deprives them of equal educational opportunities by increasing their likelihood of skipping school, underperforming academically, and eventually dropping out. It can also have a detrimental effect on their physical and mental health. Left unchecked, this harassment can lead to life-threatening violence and suicide.
Under current law, students are protected from discrimination based on their gender, race, national origin, and disability but this protection does not include sexual orientation or gender identity. The Student Non-Discrimination Act would establish a comprehensive federal prohibition against discrimination in public schools based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.
The legislation would also forbid schools from discriminating against LGBT students or ignoring harassing behavior.
Modeled after Title IX, violation of the Student Non-Discrimination Act 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.
The legislation was first introduced by Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.) in 2010 and 2011. Senator Coons was an original cosponsor of the bill in 2011.