Last week we told you about Marcel Neergaard, who has consistently spoken out against the “don’t say gay” push in Tennessee. Marcel’s latest words have come in the month leading up to the Day of Silence, an annual event organized by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) that is meant to draw attention to the “silencing effects” of anti-gay harassment and name-calling in schools and to be a way for students to show their solidarity with students who have been bullied.
As we approach April 11, this year’s Day of Silence, PFAW is doing its part to spread Marcel’s message – the idea that allstudents deserve far better than what they’re getting when it comes to bullying and harassment in schools.
Today People for the American Way sent a letter to every member of Congress urging their support of the Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA) and the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA). We are joined by twenty-four other safe schools supporters also sending letters to Congress. Each of us has taken a day to tell the House and Senate that this issue is not forgotten, that quality education means education without discrimination.
Through SSIA and SNDA, and their inclusion in the Strengthening America’s Schools Act (S. 1094), Congress has recognized the need to reverse this trend. SSIA supports the creation of comprehensive anti-bullying policies that enumerate specific categories of targeted students – including those targeted based on sexual orientation and gender identity – as well as data collection, public education, and grievance procedures. SNDA protects students from school-based sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination, much like Title IX does for gender discrimination, and much like other areas of law do for various protected classes. SNDA recognizes bullying and harassment as discrimination, and it provides both for remedies against discrimination and incentives for schools to prevent it from happening in the first place.
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Ultimately, this is about stopping abhorrent behavior that gets in the way of quality education. All students deserve far better than that.
We’ll be sharing even more with you in the coming weeks. In the meantime, please check out PFAW’s report on Big Bullies: How the Religious Right is Trying to Make Schools Safe for Bullies and Dangerous for Gay Kids and its 2012 update.