NEW YORK, May 5, 2009 - GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, is proud to join the National Safe Schools Partnership in supporting the Safe Schools Improvement Act, a federal anti-bullying bill introduced today in the House of Representatives by Calif. Rep. Linda Sanchez. Sanchez was joined by lead cosponsors Fla. Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and N.Y. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy among the total of 40 bipartisan cosponsors.
The bill requires schools that receive Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act funding to implement a comprehensive anti-bullying policy that enumerates categories often targeted by bullies, including race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression and others. It also requires states to include bullying and harassment data in their state-wide needs assessments reporting.
Current federal law provides important federal support to promote school safety but does not comprehensively and expressly focus on issues of bullying or harassment.
"GLSEN would like to thank Congresswoman Sanchez and the Safe Schools Improvement Act's bipartisan cosponsors for their leadership in trying to make schools safer for all students," GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard said. "Bullying is a serious public health crisis that affects countless young people every day in America's schools. The recent suicides by two young boys who experienced constant bullying at school are a tragic reminder that more needs to be done to address the problem.
"This bill will go a long way toward laying a foundation of support for students across the country by calling for the kind of policies that matter. We urge Congress to pass this crucially important bill for the well being of America's youth."
Carl Walker-Hoover of Springfield, Mass., took his own life April 6. Jaheem Herrera of DeKalb County, Ga., took his own life April 16. Both boys endured extreme bullying, including anti-gay taunts despite neither boy identifying as gay.
Nearly two-thirds of middle and high school students (65%) said they had been bullied in school in the past year, according to From Teasing to Torment: School Climate in America, a 2005 report from GLSEN and Harris Interactive that surveyed more than 3,000 students.
LGBT students face even higher levels of victimization. Nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT students (86.4%) said they had been harassed in the past year, according to GLSEN's 2007 National School Climate Survey of more than 6,000 LGBT students. Additionally, 60.8% said they felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation.
Both studies, however, found that students at schools with a comprehensive anti-bullying policy similar to the one required by the Safe Schools Improvement Act reported harassment at a significantly reduced rate.
In From Teasing to Torment, students whose schools had a comprehensive policy with enumerated categories that included sexual orientation and gender identity/expression were less likely to report a serious harassment problem at their school than those who did not have such a policy (33% vs. 44%, respectively). LGBT students in the 2007 National School Climate Survey who reported having a comprehensive anti-bullying policy experienced lower levels of harassment and were more likely to report incidents of harassment to school staff.
Members of the National Safe Schools Partnership, which in 2007 published federal policy recommendations in Bridging the Gap in Federal Law: Promoting Safe Schools and Improved Student Achievement by Preventing Bullying and Harassment in Our Schools, include GLSEN, the American Association of School Administrators, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the National Association of School Psychologists and the National PTA.
The National Safe Schools Partnership is an informal coalition of leading national education, health, civil rights, law enforcement, youth development and other organizations committed to ensuring that America's schools are safe for all children. To that end, members of the Partnership have joined together in support of federal policy recommendations based on long-standing research and experience.
GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. Established nationally in 1995, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. GLSEN seeks to develop school climates where difference is valued for the positive contribution it makes to creating a more vibrant and diverse community. For information on GLSEN's research, educational resources, public policy advocacy, student organizing programs and educator training initiatives, visit www.glsen.org.