Today, the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA) was reintroduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Reps. Jared Polis, (D-Colo.), a former Board of Education member, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), a former certified teacher and school principal.
SNDA, which was also introduced in the last Congress, would prohibit discrimination against any public school student on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. SNDA also prevents discrimination against students because of the actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity of a person with whom that student associates or has associated.
In his reintroduction of the bill, Rep. Polis said, “Throughout this country, far too many students fall victim to relentless harassment and discrimination from teachers, staff, and their peers based on their sexual orientation or gender identity Bullying is a leading cause of poor attendance and dropping out because kids don't feel safe enough to go to school. Like Title VI for racial and ethnic minorities in the 1960s and Title IX for women in the 1970s, my legislation puts LGBT students on an equal footing with their peers, so they can attend school and get a quality education, free from fear. This bill will ensure that every student has the right to an education free from harassment and violence."
Rep. Ros-Lehtinen said, “As a member of the Congressional Anti-Bullying Caucus and the Equality LGBT Caucus, I am proud to join Jared in the re-introduction of this important legislation that seeks to protect LGBT students against harassment and discrimination No one has the right to victimize others on the basis of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Our schools should be learning environments in which students yearn to attend rather than dread. As a former Florida certified teacher, I understand how children can carry the scars of bullying well into adulthood. LGBT students should enjoy safety as all children do. This pro-equality legislation will do just that and I’m proud to reintroduce it. ”
According to a recent survey of LGBT youth from the Human Rights Campaign, SNDA is desperately needed: 64% of LGBT teens report that they never participate in afterschool or other recreational activities out of fear of discrimination. Additionally, LGBT youth are twice as likely to experience verbal harassment, exclusion and physical attack at school as their non-LGBT peers. In fact, the top three concerns of LGBT teens were identified as family rejection (26%), school/bullying problems (21%) and fear of being out or open (18%), whereas their non-LGBT counterparts identified classes/exams/grades (25%), college/career (14%) and financial pressures (11%) as the top three problems they face. So, while non-LGBT students are focused on typical teen worries such as grades, career, and the future, LGBT youth are focused primarily on bullying and rejection.
SNDA is closely modeled after Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (20 U.S.C. §§ 1681-1688), which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex and provides legal recourse to redress such discrimination.