NEW YORK, NY, February 28, 2013 - The Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) today lauded the reintroduction of the Safe Schools Improvement Act. Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) joined by Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL), introduced a Senate bill with bipartisan support that addresses bullying and harassment for all students, including the categories of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.
The Safe Schools Improvement Act is a zero-cost bill that would require schools to implement comprehensive anti-bullying policies that address bullying and harassment and ensure the safety and well-being of all students. No federal law or policy exists that requires schools to adopt policies to address bullying and harassment. Existing state laws vary greatly in their reach and effectiveness.
"At a time when the nation is still reeling over recent violence in schools and wrestling with all the ways we must work together to keep students safe, Senators Casey and Kirk have come forward with a bill that would further this critical national priority," said Dr. Eliza Byard, GLSEN's Executive Director. "The Safe Schools Improvement Act is a bipartisan response to a grim reality: the daily toll of bullying and harassment in our schools."
"We join with more than 100 organizational partners in GLSEN's National Safe Schools Partnership to call for the passage of this essential bullying-prevention measure," said Byard. "This bill presents a real opportunity to protect students through bipartisan action with no impact on the budget. I thank Senators Casey and Kirk for their leadership in addressing a public health crisis that affects youth across the country."
"Bullying and harassment affect millions of students every year," said Sen. Casey. "I am re-introducing the Safe Schools Improvement Act to help ensure that every child receives a quality education that builds self-confidence. This bill is a crucial step towards ensuring that no child is afraid to go to school for fear of bullying."
"Bullying affects an estimated one out of every three students in America ages 12-18 years, and can have a significant impact on school engagement and academic achievement," said Sen. Kirk. "I am proud to join with Senator Casey to reintroduce the Safe Schools Improvement Act to help schools prevent bullying before it starts and to provide guidance supporting proper behavior. I hope we can help solve the issue of bullying because every child deserves a safe environment, free of harassment, in which they can learn."
In the last session of Congress, the Senate and House versions of the bill finished with 41 and 170 bipartisan cosponsors. A bipartisan House bill is expected to be introduced next week by Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA).
Reintroduction of the Senate bill comes ahead of GLSEN's Safe Schools Advocacy Summit taking place from March 2-5. The three-day summit will bring together parents, students and educators concerned about school safety from 30 different states to learn more about safe schools advocacy. Participants will also have the opportunity to share their personal experiences of bullying and harassment in school with their elected officials and congressional staff.
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. Students at schools with comprehensive anti-bullying policies similar to the one required by the Safe Schools Improvement Act were less likely than other students to report a serious harassment problem at their school (33% vs. 44%).
LGBT students experience bullying and harassment at an even more alarming rate. Eight out of 10 LGBT students (81.9%) said they've been harassed in the past year because of their sexual orientation and 63.9% because of their gender expression.
ABOUT THE NATIONAL SAFE SCHOOLS PARTNERSHIP
Led by GLSEN, The National Safe Schools Partnership (NSSP) is an informal coalition of leading national education, health, civil rights, disability rights, youth development and other organizations committed to ensuring that America's schools are safe for all children.
GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, is focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. www.glsen.org .