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Letter to Congress on the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA)

April 23, 2013

Dear Senator/Representative:

On behalf of the more than three million members of the National Education Association, we urge you to support and join the 120 co-sponsors of H.R. 1652, the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA). This critical legislation is needed to protect students from school-based sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination—much as Title IX does with gender discrimination, and other areas of the law do with various protected classes. SNDA recognizes bullying and harassment as discrimination, and provides both for remedies against discrimination and incentives for schools to prevent it from happening in the first place. 

NEA believes that every student deserves a learning environment that is safe. As a matter of sound education policy, no student should be subjected to bullying or harassment that interferes with the ability to learn and jeopardizes safety. NEA recently launched a “Bully Free: It Starts with Me” campaign to encourage adults to help stop bullying whenever and wherever it occurs.

Sixty-two percent of the respondents to NEA’s 2010 Nationwide Study of Bullying: Teachers’ and Education Support Professionals’ Perspectives reported that they had witnessed bullying twice or more in the past month and 41 percent had witnessed bullying once a week or more. School staff reported that the types of bullying of greatest concern in their own school was verbal (50 percent), social/relational (50 percent), and physical (39 percent). Bullying based on a student’s gender or perceived sexual orientation was a significant concern.

Unfortunately, many LGBT students—and those perceived to be LGBT—are subjected daily to intolerable bullying. As a result, they may choose simply to avoid a class or skip an entire day of school. According to the 2009 National School Climate Survey, “29.1 percent of LGBT students missed a class at least once and 30.0 percent missed at least one day of school in the past month because of safety concerns, compared to only 8.0 percent and 6.7 percent, respectively, of a national sample of secondary school students.” Even when they remain in class, targeted students’ grade-point averages drop by as much as half a point. For some, it isn’t just a question of education, but a matter of life and death—bullying far too often leads to the tragic suicide of promising young people, as the media has reported. 

We cannot turn a blind eye to the unspeakable tragedies unchecked bullying is causing across our nation. Students must be protected and must feel safe in their schools. We must stop the abhorrent behavior that deprives bullying victims of access to the quality education all children deserve. 

SNDA deserves your consideration, including as part of reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). We urge you to support and co-sponsor this critical legislation.

Sincerely,

Mary Kusler
Director of Government Relations