Recognizing Spirit Day

I firmly believe that every child in America deserves an education free from fear and intimidation.  My anti-bullying legislation, the Safe Schools Improvement Act, will help schools ensure that all young people are protected by barring harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identity. On October 19th, we recognize Spirit Day by taking action against bullying and showing support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth.  The importance of standing up for all children cannot be overstated, as a growing body of research and stories highlight the severity of bullying among youth in America.  According to the Department of Education, nearly 1 in 3 students between the ages of 12 and 18 are affected by bullying and harassment, which results in increased absenteeism, dropout rates, and academic underachievement, all of which undermine a child’s ability to succeed in the classroom and beyond. Another study found that fewer than half of LGBT students in Pennsylvania felt very safe in school, and that 9 in 10 LGBT students were harassed in the previous school year.

The Safe Schools Improvement Act is a bipartisan bill I’ve introduced in the Senate with 41 cosponsors that will require school districts receiving designated federal funds to adopt codes of conduct specifically prohibiting bullying and harassment, including cyberbullying and bullying based on a student’s actual or perceived race, color, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or religion. It will not have any impact on curriculum or what is taught in school, but rather seeks to ensure that every student feels safe in the classroom.  This is a commonsense solution to a serious issue throughout Pennsylvania and the United States.