Al Franken, the comedian turned U.S. senator, this week introduced the Student Non-Discrimination Act. The measure would add LGBT students — and those perceived to be LGBT — to existing federal laws protecting students from bullying.
Openly gay Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., introduced a similar bill in the House in January.
The topic of anti-gay bullying and harassment in public schools has made headlines in recent months due to some highly publicized cases of young people committing suicide after being bullied and harassed. And the popularity of social networking sites, like MySpace and FaceBook, has helped make what was once primarily a problem during the seven-hour school day into a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week problem.
In introducing the bill, Franken, a Minnesota Democrat, said: “Our nation’s civil rights laws protect our children from bullying due to race, sex, religion, disability and national origin. My proposal corrects a glaring injustice and extends these protections to our gay and lesbian students who need them just as badly.”
Franken’s bill has 22 co-sponsors.
Even though Polis’ bill was introduced more than four months ago, there has been little action on it since then, notes the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. In fact, the newspaper points out, Minnesota Republican Rep. John Kline, the ranking Republican on the Education and Labor Committee, suggested that the bill isn’t needed because anti-LGBT bullying isn’t a problem in public schools (despite numerous studies showing just the opposite).
Kline said: “We should do what we can to prevent any student from being bullied. But I have serious concerns about any bill that turns our educators into ‘thought police’ and opens the door to endless lawsuits and litigation against our schools.”