LGBT-inclusive ESEA Reintroduced in Senate

GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, today applauds Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) on introducing the Strengthening America's Schools Act of 2013. Harkin's comprehensive legislation would reauthorize and update the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The bill takes critical steps to ensure that all students attend schools with safe, supportive and inclusive environments for learning by incorporating provisions of the Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA) and the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA).

"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," said Dr. Eliza Byard, GLSEN's Executive Director. "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 legislation includes provisions that GLSEN has been fighting for more than a decade to achieve. Over that time, GLSEN has assembled and led the National Safe Schools Partnership, a coalition of more than 110 education, civil rights, health, disability, religious and youth-serving organizations that support the critical provisions of SSIA. That legislation ended the previous Congress with 170 cosponsors in the House and 41 cosponsors in the Senate and was bipartisan in both chambers.

SSIA provisions will ensure that states and school districts develop and implement enumerated anti-bullying and anti-harassment policies that cover all students, including those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT). It will also ensure that incidents of bullying and harassment are reported to state departments of education and the U.S. Department of Education to help policy makers better implement administrative programs to address bullying.

Reauthorization of ESEA also includes the Student Non-Discrimination Act, which would establish a comprehensive prohibition against discrimination in public schools based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, and would give LGBT students meaningful remedies to address discrimination modeled after Title IX.

GLSEN regularly partners with policy makers on safe schools issues pertaining to LGBT youth. GLSEN's Office of Public Policy works with elected officials and other government leaders at the local, state and federal levels to ensure that the best and most inclusive safe schools policies are considered, passed and implemented.

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