Anti-cyberbullying legislation named for Tyler Clementi, an LGBTQ college student who died by suicide in 2010, was re-introduced in Congress this session.
Openly LGBTQ sponsor members from both the House and Senate behind the Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Acts believe that this new legislation could save the lives of many LGBTQ youth across the U.S. if passed.
“No student should have to live in fear of being who they are," said U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis. and the first lesbian elected to the U.S. Senate. "Our schools should not be, and cannot be, places of discrimination, harassment, bullying, intimidation or violence."
Baldwin announced the legislation alongside Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis. and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.
The legislation currently has 21 co-sponsors in the Senate and 47 co-sponsors in the House.
“This legislation, named in honor of Tyler Clementi, is an important step forward in not only preventing harassment on campus, but also making sure our students have the freedom to succeed in safe and healthy communities of learning and achievement," she continued.
Clementi’s death drew national attention due to it taking place after his college roommate at Rutgers University set up a webcam to spy on him and secretly filmed an encounter between Clementi and another man.
The roommate, Dharun Ravi, was convicted of 15 criminal counts in 2012, including bias intimidation and invasion of privacy. He was sentenced to and served 30 days in jail.
If passed, colleges and universities would be required to establish policies prohibiting harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identity, or based on race, color, national origin, gender, disability or religion. And would recognize “cyberbullying" as harassment done via electronic messaging services and any other techonolgy that allows all form of communication between multiple people.
“No student should be harassed or cyberbullied for who they are, or who they love,” said Pocan in a statement. “Bullying is a real and persistent danger for many LGBTQ students at our colleges and universities, but there is no federal legislation that specifically protects students from being targeted based on sexual orientation or gender identity."
Grant program for institutions of higher education have also been alloted that would help create programs in institutions of higher education to prevent student harassment and also provide counseling to students subjected to harassment.
Jane Clementi, the mother of Tyler Clementi and CEO of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, released a statement after the legislation was reintroduced.
"[E]very student deserves a positive educational experience in a safe environment free of harassment, bullying or humiliation, where they can learn, study and thrive regardless of their race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or whatever else makes them special and precious," Clementi said.
"[A]nd every parent should have peace of mind that their children will be protected and free of harm while in the schools care.”