Last week, the Elementary and Secondary Education Reauthorization Act of 2011 passed out of committee without language from either of two anti-bullying bills that had been promoted by LGBT advocates.
Today, a number of LGBT advocacy organizations and the American Civil Liberties Union have joined together in requesting that the anti-bullying language be incorporated into the Reauthorization Act before it is approved. The groups include: the ACLU, the Family Equality Council, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, Lambda Legal, the National Black Justice Coalition, the National Center for Lesbian Rights National, the Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund, and PFLAG National (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). The Washington Blade has more on why the Human Rights Campaign and the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network did not sign on.
They've released a letter urging lawmakers to include anti discrimination policies that include LGBT students in the Reauthorization Act. Read the full text of the letter after the jump.
Despite the strides we've seen in the past year and a half of greater, more pervasive discussions about bullying in schools, anti-LGBT bullying hasn't gone away. In the past month I feel like I've read more and more appalling instances of anti-LGBT bullying in schools or even anti-LGBT beatings among adults. I don't believe the actual number of incidences has increased significantly, but rather that our community's documentation skills have become stronger and more thorough. This documentation can be used as evidence that members of the LGBT community - even if they're only perceived to be members of the LGBT community - continue to be targeted for this mark of difference. It's ridiculous that a federal education bill that already includes anti-bullying language could not be successfully extended to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
There's something to be said about whether legislative anti-bullying polices are really the best method of defraying the impact of peer-to-peer name-calling and harassment in schools. But that may be a conversation for a different day - today, many public institutions in the United States education system have no policies regarding LGBT students. That translates to a lack of understanding on the part of the teachers and faculty, which can result in students who are unable to turn to their own teacher for information about the feelings they're experiencing in the early stages of discovering sexuality. Without this important anti-bullying training that pays attention to sexual orientation and gender identity just as it would to race, gender, age, or size, many adults in the school system will continually fail in working to protect kids from harassment - and have an excuse for this failure.