Today, Senator Daines joined the majority of the Republican caucus in the Senate to block an amendment to the ongoing revision of No Child Left Behind that would have mandated that local school districts protect students from “discrimination based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity in public schools.” The proposal, which Senator Al Franken has been trying to pass for five years, would have extended already existing protections in place for students prohibiting discrimination based on sex, religion or race. An important component of the proposal is that it would have not only prohibited bullying by students, but also discriminatory school policies—something that is still all too real for many students.
The bullying and harassment of LGBTQ students is indisputable. The 2013 National School Climate Survey offers a litany of statistics, some of the most striking including:
- 55.5% of LGBT students felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation, and 37.8% because of their gender expression.
- 51.4% of students reported hearing homophobic remarks from their teachers or other school staff, and 55.5% of students reported hearing negative remarks about gender expression from teachers or other school staff.
- 74.1% of LGBT students were verbally harassed (e.g., called names or threatened) in the past year because of their sexual orientation and 55.2% because of their gender expression.
That discrimination and abuse is no doubt partially responsible for LGBTQ kids being twice as likely to attempt suicide.
The argument that these policies are best developed by local school boards ignores the obvious fact that schools most in need of those policies, most likely to have unsupportive or even hostile environments for LGBTQ students, are the least likely to develop them.
No one is naïve enough to believe that a federal law prohibiting discrimination will end it, but it sends an important signal to students that we care when we acknowledge their concerns. Senator Daines apparently doesn’t believe in offering that kind of support to some of our most vulnerable students, a view no doubt influenced by his retrograde views about equality and his refusal to accept that society should not tolerate discrimination.
Senator Tester voted to help protect high school kids from discrimination.
Below is Senator Franken explaining the need for the amendment that Senator Daines would not support: