Senate rejects a measure to ban bullying of LGBT students

Earlier this week, the Senate rejected a measure that would prohibit discrimination based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity in public schools. Had the measure been passed, the law would have protected students from anti-LGBT bullying and required school administrators to intervene when this type of bullying occurs.

The measure was first introduced by Minnesota Senator Al Franken in 2010 as the Student Non-Discrimination Act. But on Tuesday, Franken brought the legislation to the Senate as an amendment to the No Child Left Behind Act. He hoped that the Senate would see this matter as an extension of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a law that would protect adults from anti-LGBT discrimination in employment, and a piece of legislation that the last Senate supported.

But according to Franken, the Senate didn't see the mesure in that same vein. In MTV News, he speculated, “Some of my friends on the other side of the aisle don’t agree with the Supreme Court’s [marriage equality] decision. So they’re maybe a little bit grumpy about this. It’s like they’ve just had it on the whole issue [of LGBT equality], so maybe they weren’t ready for this."

It's important to note that while students are protected against bullying based on race, national origin, gender, and disability, there is currently no national protection for kids who are LGBT. State wise, only thirteen states have laws banning anti-LGBT discrimination at school, and eighteen have adopted LGBT-specific anti-bullying laws. And anti-LGBT bullying is a huge issue across the United States. According to a 2013 National School Climate survey, 75% of LGBT students report verbal harassment, and 35% of LGBT students have suffered physically while at school.

While bullying can be extremely harmful for LGBT young people, administrative policies can be just as discriminatory. With that in mind, this law would have also affected LGBT-exclusive school policies, disallowing school officials from treating LGBT students differently. For instance, under this law, schools would no longer be able to keep LGBT students and their same-sex dates from attending prom together, which is a problem at many schools across the country.

Despite the Senate's rejection, Fraken remains hopeful that the measure will eventually pass and encourages young people to raise awareness about the issue and contact their senators. At the end of the day, Franken says he just wants to help LGBT youth get the most out of their education. In MinnPost, Franken explained, “I feel like it’s my responsibility” to help LGBT kids. “This is an education bill…it’s about doing everything we can to make sure that kids get out of school with the tools they need. It’s hard to do that if you’re afraid.”