Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.), a strong champion for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth and students in Congress, has just released a new three minute video in support of S. 555, the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA). This legislation would have a profound impact in improving the lives of LGBT students in the U.S. by ensuring that discrimination and harassment of students on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity has no place in our country’s public elementary and secondary schools.
Franken’s new video is a spin on the It Gets Better Project’s messages of hope and support to LGBT youth in that it describes the SNDA as a concrete step to actually make life better for these young people. As Senator Franken states in the video, LGBT students shouldn’t have to wait until after they graduate from high school to be able to go about their daily lives free from discrimination and harassment. The SNDA would help to make life better for these students now.
As the video makes clear, there is a compelling need for this legislation. Discrimination, harassment, and even physical abuse, are often part of LGBT students’ daily lives at school. A 2009 study of more than 7,000 LGBT middle and high school students across the U.S. found that nine out of ten reported experiencing harassment at their school within the past year based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, and two-thirds said they felt unsafe at school because of who they are. Nearly one-third skipped at least one day of school within the previous month because of concerns for their safety. LGBT youth are also at a significantly increased risk for suicide related to mental health issues that often arise from poor treatment and discrimination in schools.