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U.S. Secretary of Education Says “No More” “This Must Stop” to Anti-Gay Bullying, But Legislation Speaks Louder Than Words

Jason Cianciotto

October 1st, 2010

Today Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education, released the following statement in response to recent tragic incidents of youth committing suicide as a result of pervasive anti-LGBT harassment and bullying in schools and college campuses across the country:

“This week, we sadly lost two young men who took their own lives for one unacceptable reason: they were being bullied and harassed because they were openly gay or believed to be gay. These unnecessary tragedies come on the heels of at least three other young people taking their own lives because the trauma of being bullied and harassed for their actual or perceived sexual orientation was too much to bear.

“This is a moment where every one of us – parents, teachers, students, elected officials, and all people of conscience – needs to stand up and speak out against intolerance in all its forms. Whether it’s students harassing other students because of ethnicity, disability or religion; or an adult, public official harassing the President of the University of Michigan student body because he is gay, it is time we as a country said enough. No more. This must stop.”

Actually, it’s time for the Obama administration and our national LGBT advocacy organizations to actively push for the passage of  the Student Nondiscrimination Act (SNDA) and the Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA).

The SSIA, first introduced in the House in 2007, is currently locked up in the House Subcommittees on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education and Healthy Families and Communities. It amends the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act (Title IV of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act) to require schools and districts receiving federal funds to adopt codes of conduct that specifically prohibit bullying and harassment, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. It also requires states to collect and report data on bullying and harassment to the Department of Education.

On July 8, 2009, Sirdeaner Walker, mother of 11-year-old Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, testified before that committee in support of SNDA’s passage just a few months after Carl committed suicide after experiencing pervasive anti-gay harassment at school. A YouTube clip of her testimony is below and GLSEN provided a transcript here.

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Introduced for the first time in the House and Senate in 2010, SNDA prohibits school programs or activities that receive federal funding from discriminating against any public school student based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. SNDA also prohibits discrimination against any public school student because of the actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity of a person with whom a student associates or has associated. Discrimination, as defined by SNDA, also includes harassment of a student. SNDA also prohibits retaliation based on an individual’s opposition to conduct made illegal by the bill, and it affirms the right of any individual who believes he or she has been harmed under its provisions to pursue legal recourse.

SNDA is currently locked up in the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

As an undergraduate, my first class on public policy included a variety of theories on how policy becomes law despite a U.S. system of government designed to be slow and deliberate. The theories of John Kingdon reigned supreme and focused, among other things, on a “window of opportunity” opening that creates an often singular opportunity for legislation to be passed, usually due to the convergence of unexpected events that capture the public’s and politician’s attention.

My broken hear over the rash of suicides in the past month would never reduce those tragedies to political “windows of opportunity.” Still, we all have to wonder the proverbial, “if not now, when?” as these two major pieces of legislation languish in a Congress focused on the mid-term election.

We need leadership in Congress, the White House, and in our movement’s national organizations to stand up and demand attention to anti-LGBT bullying in more than just words.

It’s time to pass SNDA and the SSIA. Period.

Comments

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Alex
October 1st, 2010 | LINK

Anybody who believes there will be leadership for gay equality from Obama or the Democrats is deluded. We need to fight at the local level, on school boards, town hall, etc, and vote with out wallets: Zero contributions to Democrats until we see results.

Parents, it’s all up to you! When I was picked on in junior high (the 1 year I didn’t have my older bros as bodyguards), my parents went to the principal and banged on the desk and threatened to sue. My dad threatened to run for school board. My 6’5 dad loomed over the little principal and asked him how he would like being bullied by bigger kids. Guess what? Bully not only shut up, but even apologized in front of the class.

So yeah, there will never be progress fro gay equality under homophobe-in-chief Obama or under the cowardly and incompetent Democrat leadership. Time to take matters into our own hands, use torts to bankrupt school districts, teach gay kids self-defense, and withhold support for Democrats until we see actual results instead of talk talk talk.

MJC
October 1st, 2010 | LINK

Alex: you were blessed with a great father, I think.

RHH
October 1st, 2010 | LINK

Following 37 years in education — in the classroom and administration — it behooves everyone to get involved in stopping the bullying nonsense. That means from the home as well as at school. I spent hours trying to nip the name-calling in the bud — simple things from “cry-baby” to “sissy” to “tomboy” and on and on. There simply isn’t any room for these kinds of taunts towards anyone from anyone. Even today, I’ll speak to an adult who is chastising a young person inappropriately; it just isn’t acceptable and I won’t tolerate it and neither should anyone else. Enough is enough!

CB
October 1st, 2010 | LINK

Everyone knows who is to blame for all this hate – the far-right, the Republican Party, the Tea Party, politicians like McCain, Palin, Sally Kern, Ruben Diaz, the Catholic Church, religious leaders, FOX News, NOM, AFA, etc. They were against the Matthew Shepard Act, thankfully it passed. They ALL have blood on their hands….

Their words and actions against gays equate accessory. These fatal results were caused by people just like them. They were someones loved children.

Lucrece
October 2nd, 2010 | LINK

Prohibition tactics rarely are successful. This legislation would merely be symbolic.

What needs to happen is legislations that introduces stiff criminal penalties and opens their parents easily for a civil lawsuit, as it is parents usually who breed these little monsters and stand indifferent– even gleeful– at the torment their progeny inflicts upon others.

Bullies in middle school and high school age should be liable to criminal prosecution that doesn’t amount to a slap on the wrist. When they start seeing jail time and the parents’ wallets start hurting, that’s when bullying will stop.

Kevin
October 2nd, 2010 | LINK

Lucrece, exactly! Haven’t the feds shut down many hate groups through civil actions? White supremecist groups have effectively been shut down. Obama, go after the wallets of school boards who don’t do enough! Go after NOM, even the NCCB. Yeah, it’ll take balls, but it’s time you grew some! Even the threat will likely shut these haters up.

TampaZeke
October 2nd, 2010 | LINK

TWO young men?

Is he completely out of touch with the facts or is he just bad at math?

Last count was five or six gay young men committed suicide in the last week. It was widely known that at least THREE of them died on one day, Wednesday, before this statement was made.

TampaZeke
October 2nd, 2010 | LINK

Lucrece, you just NAILED it!

That is exactly what needs to happen. Bullying policies will be minimally effective if there is no real (even criminal) consequence to those caught bullying.

Panthera
October 2nd, 2010 | LINK

It is time to shut down the GayATM completely for all Democrats who don’t actively promote our civil rights.

We are stuck in an abusive relationship with the Democrats – fostered by the HRC – which leaves us permanent victims. They beat us up, then tell us it would be even worse with the Republicans and tea-baggers.

The upcoming elections are a perfect opportunity to unite and tell the Democrats to either stand up and do something for us or we will only vote for the few Dems who actually support us – and sit on our hands otherwise.

Then, after they get whupped on Nov. 2, write them and tell them exactly who you did and did not vote for, and why.

Honestly, these deaths of young children, teenagers and adults are the direct consequence of letting our enemies abuse us. There is blood on our hands for this because of our willingness to let the Democrats abuse us.

Without us, they haven’t got a chance in the South. Without us, they will definitely lose the house and quite possibly the senate. We have to use this opportunity.

customartist
October 2nd, 2010 | LINK

Not only have the rights of the Child been abridged but also that of his family.

@Alex,
We cannot remove support for All, in order to spite Some.

@CB,
Just this week we have had Death speech form the Government Office of se. Saxby Chambliss, and a Blog of Harrassment, and protests outside of a gay student’s home, coming from the Michigan Asst. AG Shirvel.

Governments are still today creating laws that opress Gays and fly in the face of the U.S. Constitution.

@Lucrece,
Your statements are exactly correct.
Laws are needed, to clarify and specify teachers’ responsibilities, and so is affirmative implementation. But surely there are existing laws that hold caretakers responsible for children’s safety, should Parents wish to sue.

@Panthera,
I feel your frustration. But I will not vote out any Democrat unless I know with certainty that they have voted against us. This is my measure.

Voting categorically against the Domocratic Party line will only rezult in postponed Civil rights for Gays overall. The Republicans only fain compassion, and only a very few at that.

kindly

Panthera
October 2nd, 2010 | LINK

Customartist,
I certainly understand where you’re coming from. Unfortunately, the Democrats we chose (instead of Hilary Clinton) simply don’t give a damn about us except as sheep to vote for them, eager campaign volunteers and people with deep pockets.

We’re going to lose, and lose big, in a few weeks. It is better to use this loss to demonstrate in undeniably clear terms to the Democrats that without us, they have a major, serious problem than to continue to be the victims in this abusive relationship.

It is, I admit, easy for me to say – my Democratic senate and house members are strong supporters of our civil and human rights and they all haven’t got a chance this coming November. They’ve got both my financial support and my vote, but it’s purely symbolic.

What would you suggest we do to get the Democrats to support human and civil rights for us if not by closing our pocketbooks and withholding our one, true power from those who don’t support us?

John
October 2nd, 2010 | LINK

Certainly, these two bills need to be passed. But we need more than laws prohibiting certain behaviors. School districts and government bodies need to be proactive. Bullying needs to be counteracted and not simply prohibited. If officials can’t or won’t do this, they should seek other employment.

customartist
October 2nd, 2010 | LINK

@Panthera,

What to do to get support? This is a very good question.

With all of your, and others’, strong deire to affect things Right Now! I personally believe that from a strategic standpoint that right after the elections will be a monumental time for the movement of Gay civil Rights.

This is because of several factors;

First, Democrats are stuck in a game as are all politicians of having to get popular vote in order to merely maintain their positions, They can’t help us if they are not elected. They will not have this pressure after the election.

Unfortunately, gays are a smaller portion of the society overall than the 40 – 60 % (or whatever the actual numbers are) of society that approve of gays having rights.

Almost immedaitely after the election, the study on DADT will be finished and this will be the time for movement on that issue.

I complain that there has been NO Consideration within the Study with regards to what effects Openly serving gays has had on Other Countries, and that the study has gone so far as to consider the Wives’ opinions, which are irrelevant. Someone has seen the numbers not adding up in their favors and they have resorted to “cookin’ the books”

Also, the culmination of child suicides, of the “all faggots must die” email form Sen. Chamblis’ office, and of the Michigan Asst. AG’s heinous actions will have this all boiling over in our favor.

2011 will be THE TIME for overall “Bias Intimidation” Legislation.

Please don’t be angry with me for proposing a strategy. All opinions deserve respect in the overall effort.

Thanks

Panthera
October 3rd, 2010 | LINK

Customartist,
I heartily support anyone who puts forward positive suggestions on how to change this disgusting situation.

Personally, I think the Democrats will do nothing but cave, cave and bow low to their new Republican masters on issues of civil and human rights, beginning on Nov. 3, 2010.

Sometime in late 2011, we will see minor but clear hints that they ‘care’ about us and, up to the election, we will once again be courted and promised the blue from the skies.

I don’t want the blue from the skies, I want my civil and human rights. I spent the first decade of my adult life battling those gays who demanded I put aside my childish monogamy and behave like they wanted me to. It was the same straight-jacket heteronormative society wanted to impose on me, just in a different style.
I spent the next 15 years burying nearly all my friends.
It’s time to make it clear to the Democrats: Either you believe in civil rights or you don’t. Promises are easy when you know you can’t fulfill them. They had the power to keep their promises and they threw us under the bus alongside women and the transgender.

I’m done with the urgency of whenever. We are a minority, but a cold, hard look at the statistics should be enough to convince even the leftovers from the DLC – without us, they haven’t got a chance in several major races. We aren’t a closed block, there is no inherent reason for us to vote for the Democrats except their support for restoring our rights.

When even South American banana republics recognize our full human and civil status, why on earth accept less in the USA?

[redacted]
October 3rd, 2010 | LINK

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