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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 27, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 17
Obama endorses federal anti-bullying laws on Day of Silence
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Obama endorses federal anti-bullying laws on Day of Silence

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

President Obama used the occasion of the Day of Silence, April 20, to endorse the federal Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA) and the Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA).

'The president and his administration have taken many steps to address the issue of bullying. He is proud to support the Student Non-Discrimination Act, introduced by Senator Franken and Congressman Polis, and the Safe Schools Improvement Act, introduced by Senator Casey and Congresswoman Linda Sanchez,' White House spokesperson Shin Inouye said.

'These bills will help ensure that all students are safe and healthy and can learn in environments free from discrimination, bullying, and harassment.'

The SNDA, modeled after Title IX of the 1972 federal Education Amendments, would add sexual orientation and gender identity to federal education nondiscrimination law.

The SSIA would amend the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act to include bullying- and harassment-prevention programs, including ones based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Inouye added that for the Day of Silence, 'the White House Office of Public Engagement is holding a screening of the documentary Bully at the White House with bullying prevention advocates from a wide range of communities.'

The White House had previously said Obama supports the goals of the two bills, but until the April 20 announcement he had not indicated a specific endorsement for either measure.

GLSEN executive director Eliza Byard said the president's announcement 'is a vital show of support to students everywhere of all identities, backgrounds, and beliefs who face bullying and harassment in school.

'By speaking out on GLSEN's Day of Silence in support of these two critical bills, the president has given greater hope to students who often feel that they have nowhere to turn. It is deeply moving to know that Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender students who face the multiple threats of harassment, violence and discrimination have the president as an ally in their efforts to win all of the protections that they deserve.'

'The president's endorsement of the SNDA and SSIA recognizes the importance of providing LGBT students with the same civil rights protections as other students,' HRC President Joe Solmonese said.

'No student should feel scared when walking into their school and these bills would address the discrimination and bullying that our youth have endured for far too long.'

The ACLU, which has strongly supported SNDA, called the president's endorsement 'key to getting this necessary legislation passed into law.'

'Having the White House stand behind the Student Non-Discrimination Act is key to getting this necessary legislation passed into law,' ACLU legislative representative Ian Thompson said in a statement.

'Our public schools should be a safe harbor for our youth, not a place of exclusion and ridicule. By passing the Student Non-Discrimination Act, Congress can have a profound and very real impact in improving the lives of LGBT students. It's time to make passage of this bill a priority.'

'We applaud the Obama administration for endorsing this critical piece of legislation,' Lambda Legal said in a statement. 'We thank Sen. Al Franken, Rep. Jared Polis, Rep. Barney Frank, and Rep. Tammy Baldwin and over 50 other current sponsors for their leadership on this bill and we urge Congress to pass it.'

'Parents, educators, policymakers - all of us - need to stand against this unacceptable behavior. The president did that today. We urge him to now help get these life-saving bills through Congress,' NGLTF said.

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