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ESEA Reauthorization Debate Addresses Bullying and Discrimination

Debate surrounding reauthorization of the ESEA continues, with a current focus on bullying prevention and protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students. The U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee supported a bill in October reauthorizing the ESEA. The bill included provisions intended to address and minimize bullying in schools, but did not include the Student Non-Discrimination Act (“SNDA”) or the Saft Schools Improvement Act (“SSIA”), both designed to give express protections for LGBT students. On November 1, 2001, a group of LGBT organizations wrote a letter to the Senate committee espressing their concerns about the reauthorization bill. Senators sponsoring the SNDA and SSIA (Sen. Al Franken and Sen. Bob Casey, respectively) say they intend to introduce their bills during debate on the Senate floor. Several organizations are supporting separate legislation designed to protect LGBT students, while others maintain that specific decisions about bullying protection should be made at the local level. We’ll continue monitoring this debate and the potential impact on area schools and policies.