Thursday, January 28, 2010

Student Nondiscrimination Act Introduced in Congress

Yesterday, Representative Jared Polis (D-Co.) introduced in the House of Representative a bill that would provide Title IX-like protection to LGBT students. If passed, the Student Nondiscrimination Act would offer remedies for discrimination that targets students because of their "actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity."

This law is sorely needed. GLSEN reports that 86.4% of LGBT students who responded to a 2007 school climate survey said they had been harassed in the past year. 60.8% said they felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation. Yet, there is no federal law protects students from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, like there are for protected categories of sex (Title IX), race (Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which applies to public accommodations), and disability (Rehabilitation Act, ADA). Some courts have interpreted Title IX and the Equal Protection Clause to protect LGBT students, but no uniform standard or scope of protection has resulted from these limited decisions. Additionally, while 14 states enumerate protection for students on the basis of sexual orientation and an additional 10 supply protection on the basis of gender identity, students in most states are without protection of state law (see map here). The Student Nondiscrimination Act would provide a uniform standard of protection, one that would not be subject to the interpretation of federal courts or to the willingness of state legislatures. I hope to be able to provide many more updates to this post as the bill makes its way through Congress and the President and becomes the law of the land.