Al Franken's Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA) Will Protect LGBT Students

The Student Non-Discrimination Act of 2012 (SNDA) ensures that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) public school students receive protection and prohibits discrimination based on sexual or gender identity nationally. 

The H.R. 998: Student Non-Discrimination Act of 2011 has been introduced in the Senate by Senator Al Franken and in the House by Representative Jared Polis, and it was cosponsored by 152 members of Congress. This Act forces federal departments and agencies to curtail any financial assistance for public schools that prevent students from participating in programs because of their sexual preference or gender identity. The act also decrees that homophobic and transphobic harassment is intolerable and the same ramifications should occur. The H.R. 4530 Sthe Student Non-Discrimination Act of 2012 (SNDA) ensures that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) public school students receive protection and prohibits discrimination based on sexual or gender identity nationally.

The H.R. 998: Student Non-Discrimination Act of 2011 has been introduced in the Senate by Senator Al Franken and in the House by Representative Jared Polis, and it was cosponsored by 152 members of Congress. This act forces federal departments and agencies to curtail any financial assistance for public schools that prevent students from participating in programs because of their sexual preference or gender identity. The act also decrees that homophobic and transphobic harassment is intolerable and the same ramifications should occur. The H.R. 4530 Student Non-Discrimination Act of 2010 preceded this bill. Although refuted, it was reintroduced on March 10th, 2011. Currently it has been referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

Analysis 

The cost of enacting this bill is minimal in comparison to its benefits. Increased levels of victimization are related to increased levels of depression and anxiety as well as decreased levels of self-esteem. Besides improving morale, enacting this bill will also benefit schools’ test scores. The reported grade point average of students who were more frequently harassed because of their sexual orientation or gender expression was almost half a grade lower than that for students who were less often harassed. Along with a decrease of suicide rates, this bill would encourage a decrease in absenteeism, further increasing test scores. Improving a school’s environment and safety will also improve its academic success. 

The 14th Amendment says that all United States citizens are provided equal protection under their jurisdiction. Though the amendment does not specify sexual orientation or gender identity, it still implies that everyone deserves to be protected. Like Title IX, this bill aims to end discrimination in federal programs. Title IX’s successful accommodation of both genders for sport activities suggests that SNDA’s success is also achievable. 

Next Steps 

In addition to the elimination of financing when schools fail to abide by the act, training will be required for all public school teachers and administrative staff. To ensure ultimate equal protection, strategic training must be incorporated through a selection of workshops for teaching sensitivity and combating homophobic and transphobic behavior. Recent media attention surrounding LGBT teen suicides after bullying have left many teachers concerned. However, without the appropriate resources and tools, they cannot resolve this national predicament. Schools can choose among workshops such as the American Civil Liberties Union’s “Making Schools Safe” and the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network’s “Respect for All.” These developmental trainings, which would take place prior to the beginning of the school year, must instruct how to intervene in harassment and use inclusive language. As a result, there will be higher school morale, higher test scores, and more financial attention from the state. Districts can refer to the Rochester city school district and the New York City Department of Education for successful school district training programs. 

This is not a matter of partisanship, but a matter of safety for youth across the United States. Tolerance can be effectively enforced in schools and if made into a law, and the lives of youth will be improved and saved.