"All people are not heterosexual. Heterosexuality is not superior and is not the norm by which all other sexual orientation and gender identities are measured." --Burnaby, B.C. Schools Draft Policy #5.45

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Safe Schools Improvement Act of 2011

According to statistics published in February 2011 by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, 78% of transgender students reported harassment in school, 35% had been physically assaulted, 12% had been sexually assaulted, and 15% left school because of harassment.  

Senators Mark Kirk (Republican from Illinois) and Bob Casey (Democrat from Pennsylvania) have introduced a bill called the Safe Schools Improvement Act of 2011 to address bullying.  It is Senate bill 506 and House bill 1648.

The bill would amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.  Some of its key features (quotation marks reflect original language, not irony):

1. The Congressional "findings" section of the bill (establishing the factual basis for legislative action) specifically mentions "gender identity": "Students have been particularly singled out for bullying and harassment on the basis of their actual or perceived race, color, national origin, sex, disability status, sexual orientation or gender identity, among other categories." (Section 2(5))

2. The bill would require states: 
    a. To collect and report information on bullying--what kind, how much, "perception" of impact on victims, and at what age it starts.
     b. Not to identify in their reports either the names of the aggressors or the names of their victims.
    c. To evaluate the need for anti-bullying programs, and the effectiveness of school responses to incidents of bullying.

3. The bill requires local school boards:
     a. To have "clear" prohibitions against bullying (which is defined to include harassment based on gender identity) within their disciplinary policies.
    b. To report to parents each year statistics on bullying incidents that occurred in the local schools, as well as notice as to what kinds of behavior are regarded as bullying.
     c.  To establish grievance procedures for handling complaints about bullying, including identifying the person who receives the complaints, and the "timeline" for how the complaints will be resolved.

Find 506 on the Library of Congress bill search system here.  

Senator Casey wrote about Focus on the Family's criticism of the bill in this Huffington Post article. Focus on the Family's Candi Cushman responded, in this article, also in the Huffington Post. A third writer named Jim David also published an article in the Huffington Post, here, critical of Focus on the Family's response to the bill.

Ms. Cushman, Eliza Byard from GLSEN, and a clear-speaking expert on bullying, Rosalind Wiseman, debated the 2010 version of the bill on CNN, in this YouTube video.

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