Sens. Al Franken (D-MN) and Jared Polis (D-CO) reintroduced legislation this week that would prohibit discrimination against LGBT youth, including bullying and other forms of harassment, in public schools.
The Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA), first introduced in 2010, would use Title IX civil rights protections as a model to prohibit discrimination based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.
Title IX laws prohibit discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion, disability, or national origin. Bullying and other harassment based on any of these qualities, including sexual harassment or assault, are considered violations of Title IX laws because they create an unequal educational environment for certain groups.
Sexual orientation and gender identity, however, aren’t currently covered under Title IX.
LGBT youth are about twice as likely as their straight peers to be verbally or physically harassed in school. They are also more likely to suffer from poor academic performance, drop out of school, or experience mental and physical health issues as a result of bullying.
Under the SNDA, if a school didn’t adequately address anti-LGBT bullying, or if a faculty member treated students unfairly based on sexual orientation or gender identity, affected students would have legal standing to sue. The school could lose federal funding.
“No student should have to dread going to school because they fear being bullied,” said Franken in a statement.