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ACLU of Florida, 29 other groups, call on Nelson and Rubio to co-sponsor anti-bullying legislation

News release from the ACLU of Florida:

STUDENT NON-DISCRIMINATION ACT (SNDA) WOULD PROTECT STUDENTS FROM HARASSMENT BASED ON ACTUAL OR PERCEIVED SEXUAL ORIENTATION OR GENDER IDENTITY

MIAMI, FL – Today the ACLU of Florida along with 29 organizations sent a letter encouraging Senator Bill Nelson and Senator Marco Rubio to stand against bullying and become a cosponsor for the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA.)

This important bill was introduced simultaneously in the House and Senate and would protect students from discrimination, including harassment “based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity” in public elementary and secondary schools. The Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA) would help to end entrenched biases towards lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students in our public education system by filling gaps in our federal civil rights laws. The bills were introduced by Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) and Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO).

“The Student Non-Discrimination Act will have a profound impact on improving the lives of LGBT students in Florida and around the country,” said Nikki Fisher, ACLU of Florida Advocacy Coordinator. “As Floridians, we hope our Senators will take a stance to protect all students and provide a safe and tolerant education. Senator Nelson and Rubio should make joining as cosponsors and safety of all students a priority.”

The recent tragic deaths of young gay students from across the country underscore the fact that LGBT students are an especially vulnerable population in our nation’s schools. Discrimination and harassment, even physical abuse, are often a part of these students’ daily lives. Seth Walsh was one of those students. A 13-year-old middle school student, he was bullied and harassed at school for his sexual orientation. Seth's mother and close friends report that teachers and school administrators were aware that Seth was being harassed and, in some instances, participated in the harassment. His mother's pleas to the school for help were often brushed aside. In September 2010, Seth hanged himself from a tree in his backyard. A note Seth left upon his death expresses love for his family and close friends, and anger at the school for bringing them "this sorrow."

While federal laws currently protect students on the basis of their race, color, sex, religion, disability or national origin, no federal statute explicitly protects students on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. The SNDA, like Title IX, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the various disability civil rights statutes, is not simply legislation that would remedy discrimination after it occurs, but instead would also have the important impact of preventing discrimination from occurring.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, AAUW of Florida Brevard National Organization for Women, Equality Florida, Family Diversity Inc., Florida Consumer Action Network (FCAN), Florida Together, Florida Young Democrats, Gay Grassroots of Northwest Florida, The GLBT Community Center of Central Florida, GLSEN Orlando, Humanist of Florida Association, JASMYN, Inc., The National Council of Jewish Women Kendall Section, The NCJW North West Broward Section, The NCJW of Greater Miami Section, Oasis Fellowship Ministries, Inc, OneOrlando.org, OneJax, The Peace Coalition of Brevard , Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays of the Florida Keys, Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays of Jacksonville, Florida, Planned Parenthood of Greater Orlando , Progress Florida, Red Ribbon Charitable Foundation Inc , SAVE Dade, Securing Our Children's Rights (SOCR), The Social Action Committee of the First Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Palm Beaches , The Space Coast Progressive Alliance and University of West Florida Gay-Straight Alliance stand together and urge Senator Nelson and Senator Rubio to stand up against bullying, protect every Florida student, and cosponsor the Student Non-Discrimination Act today.

A copy of today’s letter is available here:

http://www.aclufl.org/pdfs/2011-07-13-ACLUStudentNDALetter.pdf

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