Student Non-Discrimination Act
The Student Non-Discrimination Act H
On March 10, 2011, Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo) introduced the legislation in the House of Representatives and Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) introduced it in the Senate. Its prospects for passage were uncertain. Polis hoped the bill could become part of the annual re-authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). It has 99 co-sponsors in the House and 27 co-sponsors in the Senate. Franken cited the 2010 suicide of Justin Aaberg, a 15-year-old Minnesota high school student, and appeared the same day at a press conference with Aalberg's mother, a critic of the record of the Minnesota Anoka-Hennepin Public School District on LGBT harassment. The introduction of the legislation was part of a week of events that focused on the problem of bullying, including a White House conference on bullying prevention and the introduction of two related bills, the Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA) by Sens. Bob Casey (D-PA) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) and the Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.).
The legislation provides a federal prohibition against discrimination against LGBT students in public schools. It forbids schools from discriminating based on sexual orientation and gender identity and prohibits them from ignoring harassing behavior. The bill defines discrimination as "harassment, bullying, intimidation, and violence based on sexual orientation or gender identity." Distinct from state legislation, the legislation can be enforced with the loss of federal funding.
Neal McCluskey of the Cato Institute warned that "The definition of harassment could be so broadly interpreted that anybody who expressed a totally legitimate opinion about homosexual behavior could be made illegal. That's a violation of those kids who want to express opposition to LGBT opinions or behavior." Another opponent said it represented "the radical homosexual agenda" of Kevin Jennings, assistant deputy secretary for the Department of Education's Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools . On March 8, 2012, the American Federation of Teachers, the Communications Workers of America, the American Counseling Association, the NAACP, the National Council of Jewish Women, and several dozen other groups supported the legislation in a letter to President Obama.
- Washington Blade: Chris Johnson, "Polis reintroduces Student Non-Discrimination Act, March 10, 2011, accessed March 6, 2012
- Keen News Service: Dana Rudolph, "Student anti-bullying, non-discrimination bills face uncertain path," March 9, 2011, accessed March 6, 2012
- MinnPost: Beth Hawkins, "Franken says bill would clarify how schools must respond to anti-LGBT bullying," March 11, 2011, accessed March 6, 2012
- Huffington Post: Al Franken and Joe Solmonese, "Preventing Tragedy in Our Schools," October 5, 2010, accessed March 6, 2012
- Minnesota Independent: Andy Birkey, "Franken pushes anti-bullying amendment to education bill," October 24, 2011, accessed March 6, 2012
- Fox News: Joshua Rhett Miller, "Gay Discrimination Bill Will Stifle Free Speech, Advance 'Homosexual Agenda,' Critics Say," February 23, 2010, accessed March 6, 2012
- MetroWeekly: Chris Geidner, "Seventy Groups Tell White House SNDA Endorsement Would Be 'a Clarion Call for Equality'," March 8, 2012, accessed March 9, 2012