Thursday, February 24, 2011

Safe Schools Amendment Act

The Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA), a federal anti-bullying bill, is on the verge of introduction in the U.S. House and Senate. You can take action now to ensure it gets passed!

This bill will require schools and districts receiving federal funding to specifically prohibit bullying and harassment, including conduct based on a student's actual or perceived race, color, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or religion - and based on association with anyone of those identities. If we all work together, we can make schools safer for students with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgeder, and queer parents - and ALL students!

Bullying and harassment of students is widespread and affects millions of students every year. The Safe Schools Improvement Act of 2011 (formerly S. 3739/H.R. 2262) is designed to help schools address this problem by ensuring that no child is afraid to go to school for fear of unchecked bullying and harassment.
What is the Safe Schools Improvement Act?
  • Requires schools and districts receiving federal funding to specifically prohibit bullying and harassment, including conduct based on a student’s actual or perceived race, color, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or religion.
  • Ensures that schools and school districts focus on effective prevention programs in order to better prevent and respond to incidents of bullying and harassment both in school and online.
  • Requires that states report data on incidents of bullying and harassment to the Department of Education
Why is this needed?
  • A 2009 U.S. Department of Education study found that bullying and harassment affects nearly one in every three American students between the ages of 12 through 18.1 Another study estimates that 60,000 students in the U.S. do not attend school each day because they fear being bullied.
  • Research shows that bullying and harassment have adverse long-term consequences, including decreased concentration at school, increased school absenteeism, damage to the victim’s self-esteem, and increased social anxiety.
  • While we do have federal laws to provide support to promote school safety, there is nothing currently in place to comprehensively and expressly address issues of bullying or harassment.
  • Awareness of the problem is growing. According to a recent poll, 85 percent of Americans strongly support or somewhat support a federal law to require schools to enforce specific rules to prevent bullying.2
What is the history of the Safe Schools Improvement Act?
  • In the 111th Congress, S. 3739 had the support of seventeen bipartisan cosponsors in the Senate. Companion legislation in the House of Representatives, introduced by Representative Linda S├ínchez (D-CA), was supported by 131 bipartisan cosponsors.
  • When Congress last took up the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA, or No Child Left Behind), both the Senate and House Education Committees included the core principles of the Safe School Improvement Act in their draft bills.
Who supports the Safe Schools Improvement Act?
Numerous education, health, law enforcement and youth development organizations support SSIA, including the American Association of School Administrators, American Federation of Teachers, American School Health Association, Learning Disabilities Association of America, National Association of School Psychologists, National Down Syndrome Society, National Education Association, National Parent Teacher Association, American Association of University Women, Asian American Justice Center, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, COLAGE, Human Rights Campaign, Trevor Project, and National Council of La Raza.

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