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Student Non-discrimination Act of 2010 introduced in U.S. House

(WASHINGTON D.C.) The Student Non-discrimination Act of 2010 (SNDA) was introduced yesterday to the House of Representatives. If passed, the bill would prohibit discrimination against any public school student on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. The bill would further protect public school students from being discriminated against due to the perceived sexual orientation of persons with whom they associate. The bi-partisan SNDA was introduced by Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO) and has 60 co-sponsors.

“Hatred has no place in the classroom,” said Congressman Polis. “Every student has the right to an education free from harassment and violence. This bill will protect the individual freedoms of our students and enshrine the values of equality and opportunity in our classrooms.”

Discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity contributes to high rates of absenteeism, dropout, adverse health consequences, and academic under achievement among LGBT youth. When left unchecked, such discrimination can lead, and has led to, life-threatening violence and suicide.

"Our public schools are mandated to support all students in their pursuit of academic achievement and social stability,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. “LGBT students have historically been alienated, harassed, and bullied in their schools, with little or no intervention from school personnel. And far too many have underperformed or ‘dropped out’ in response to the lack of safety and support. No student should have to be fearful when walking through the doors of their school, and this legislation would require immediate and appropriate action to stop the discrimination that our youth have endured for far too long."

Federal statutory and/or constitutional protections expressly address discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex and disability, but do not expressly address sexual orientation or gender identity. As a result, students and parents have limited legal recourse to redress for discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Said Hayley Gorenberg, Deputy Legal Director of Lambda Legal. "At Lambda Legal, we've encountered extraordinary cases of violence and discrimination against LGBT young people in schools - and sometimes against the allies who try to support them. The Student Non-Discrimination Act takes a big step toward a safer and healthier environment in every public school.

"Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students have long been at a significant disadvantage without specific protection under federal law. All students have a right to a safe learning environment, and this law will leave no doubt as to public schools' responsibility to provide it.”

The SNDA is closely modeled after title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex and provides legal recourse to redress such discrimination.

The SNDA is supported by The American Association of University Women, American Civil Liberties Union, American Counseling Association, Gay-Straight Alliance Network, GLAD (Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders), GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network), Human Rights Campaign, Lambda Legal, National Association of School Psychologists, National Association of Secondary School Principals, National Center for Lesbian Rights, National Center for Transgender Equality, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund, National Women's Law Center, School Social Work Association of America, and Transgender Law Center.