Education Policy Overhaul Aims to Protect Gay Students

A bill to alter America's education system was introduced in the Senate Tuesday, and it includes ways to protect LGBT students from harassment, bullying, and discrimination.

BY Michelle Garcia

June 05 2013 12:43 PM ET

A proposal to overhaul current education policy was introduced Tuesday, and the 1,150-page document includes language to bar schools and administrators from discriminating against LGBT students. 

The Strengthening America's Schools Act of 2013 is a sweeping bill aimed at improving schools, and reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, also known as "No Child Left Behind." It also includes language from two previously introduced bills intended to protect LGBT students: the Safe Schools Improvement Act, which would establish antibullying and antiharassment policies, and the Student Non-Discrimination Act, which would ban discrimination in public schools against LGBT students and those who are perceived to be LGBT. 
 
The SNDA, in particular, is being compared to Title IX, a landmark policy instituted in 1972 that bans sex discrimination in schools that receive federal funding. 
 
"This is a significant moment for our nation's education system, and one that addresses the vital needs of all students in K-12 schools," Eliza Byard of the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network said in a statement Tuesday. "We are thrilled that the Senate is moving to address the long overdue issue of school bullying and harassment. This bill includes critical components to ensure safer learning environments. We will continue to work with the Senate as the process moves forward to make sure that key provisions remain intact so that every student can reach their fullest potential."
 
The bill was introduced in the Senate by Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee chairman Tom Harkin and cosponsored by 10 other senators. 
 
"No child should dread going to school because they don't feel safe," Minnesota senator Al Franken, who introduced the SNDA in 2011, told the Associated Press. "Our nation's civil rights laws protect our children from bullying due to race, sex, religion, disability, and national origin. 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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