Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Jared Polis, Reintroduce Anti-Bullying Bill

by Sergio Candido
Monday Apr 29, 2013

Just in time for National Day of Silence, Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and Colorado Democrat Jared Polis have reintroduce a bill that would prohibit discrimination against sexual orientation and gender identity in public schools nationwide.

The legislators announced they introduced the bill, named the Student Non-Discrimination Act, on April 18, one day before National Day of Silence.

DOS is a national day of observance that takes place every year since 1996 to to protest the bullying and harassment of LGBT teens. The event was started by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network and takes place every April.

If passed, the bill would also also forbid schools from discriminating against LGBT students or ignoring harassing behavior.

"Bullying is a leading cause of poor attendance and dropping out because kids don't feel safe enough to go to school," Rep. Polis said in a statement.

"My legislation puts LGBT students on an equal footing with their peers, so they can attend school and receive a quality education, free from fear."

The politicians announced 118 cosponsors from both parties for bill.

If passed, it will provide students like Bayli Silberstein, who faced opposition from faculty and staff at Carver Middle School, in Lake County, Florida when she attempted to start a Gay-Straight Alliance with legal recourse at a federal level.

"Lots of kids, including me, were being bullied and treated badly just for who we are. When we tried to start a club to fight the anti-gay bullying, I'm glad that I had a lot of support from my family and friends and people all over the country to convince the school that this issue matters," the bisexual teenager said.

"But not all kids have that support, so I'm glad this bill is being filed to make sure kids all over the country are protected."

For her part, Ros-Lehtinen, whose son Rodrigo is a transgender man, said she hopes the bill will help put an end to bullying.

"Schools should be places where our kids can learn and thrive, and that are free from persecution and harassment," she said. "LGBT students are often verbally harassed due to their sexual orientation. It is important that we strive to make sure that LGBT students enjoy safety as all children do."

Earlier this month, a federal court in Fort Myers, Florida ruled in favor of a female student who sued the Desoto County School District Board of Education and three school officials after they allegedly prevented her from organizing and participating in DOS last year.

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