The Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA), a bill spelling out specific groups of the student population currently victim to bullying and harassment, of which LGBTQ youth is one, has reached record support in Congress, with 176 bipartisan cosponsors in the House and 43 bipartisan cosponsors in the U.S. Senate.
Part of the larger Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) that is currently up for routine reauthorization, the solid support for SSIA increases its chance of passage and would mandate that all 50 states not only recognize LGBTQ youth as vulnerable, but report all recorded incidents of bullying and harassment, so state and federal agencies can accurately measure the extent of the problem.
“We are extremely encouraged by the increased support for the Safe Schools Improvement Act, particularly among our Republican friends who recognize that all students deserve to be safe in school regardless of who they are,” says Eliza Byard, executive director at the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), the organization consulted for the wording of SSIA.
As bullying is not an LGBTQ issue alone, SSIA addresses harassment for all victimized students, with race, color or perceived race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion and disability marked as identifiers. States are free to add to this list as required – Illinois already enacted a similar law, and includes military families/status among the afore-mentioned categories.
“We want to forward this legislation as necessary because right now states aren’t moving particularly fast,” says Nathan Smith, public policy manager at GLSEN. “This is a critical issue; it needs to be addressed quickly. There isn’t much movement to pass enumerated anti-bullying policies on the state level.”