Sen. Tom Harkin

Student Non-Discrimination Act Sorely Needed in Our Nation’s Schools

“I stopped going to school four months before graduation because I couldn’t handle the bullying anymore. I will not get to attend my senior prom, and…throw my graduation cap in the air.”

Harassment and bullying in schools are widely understood to be pervasive nationwide problems.  But as the above quote from an LGBT student highlights, for LGBT young people the situation can be especially severe.  Yesterday the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA), which would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression in public schools, was both reintroduced in the Senate by Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) and included in Sen. Tom Harkin’s (D-IA) proposed education bill updating the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. 

Studies show that this kind of legislation is sorely needed. The most recent Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network National School Climate Survey found that in the past year alone, more than eight in ten LGBT students had been verbally harassed because of their sexual orientation and more than six in ten because of their gender expression.  The majority of students who were harassed did not report it to school staff, believing that nothing would happen if they did – or that the situation could get even worse. 

As one student shared,

“Bullying in our school is mostly verbal, but it hurts just as much as any physical pain… Teachers rarely do anything about it.”

Those who were harassed frequently had lower GPAs and were less likely to say they planned to go on to college or other post-secondary education.  Many LGBT students reported missing class because they felt unsafe or uncomfortable, with nearly one in three LGBT students missing at least one full school day in the past month.

When harassment at school is associated with missed classes, lowered grades, shifted educational ambitions, or even depression, it can have long term implications for the wellbeing of LGBT youth.  No student should face this kind of hostility at school because of who they are or who others perceive them to be.

PFAW
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