Sen. Sherrod Brown, an Ohio democrat, recently came out in support of Safe Schools Improvement Act, anti-bullying legislation specifically listing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students as a protected class.
In an e-mail to constituents, Brown, a cosponsor of the bill, wrote about the LGBT students and the bullying this community faces:
Bullying — a growing problem for our students — can manifest during or after school, online and electronically. It is estimated that 65 percent of teens — over 12 million students — in the United States have been the target of school bullying or harassment.
But, for LGBT youth, those numbers are even more discouraging. According to studies by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, among students who identify as LGBT, an alarming 86 percent had been bullied in the past year. Over 60 percent of LGBT students felt unsafe at school. That is triple the percentage of their straight peers who felt the same way. LGBT young people who experienced a high level of harassment related to their sexual orientation or gender identity were two to three times more likely to have missed school in the past month.
These high numbers demonstrate why schools must take a proactive stance to protect students from this harmful behavior; however, due to tightening budgets, schools are often unable to allocate enough resources to comprehensive anti-bullying efforts.
Through the Safe Schools Improvement Act, schools would receive funding for LGBT-inclusive bullying and harassment prevention programs. Programs like these result in students feeling more safe and welcomed at school. This legislation is crucial because when students choose to stay home because of a fear of harassment, their academic success is jeopardized. It would also require states to compile data on incidences of bullying and harassment, including anti-LGBT bullying.