January 27, 2010 at 4:01 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
Polis introduces safe schools bill for LGBT students

(DC Agenda photo by Michael Key)

A gay U.S. House member on Wednesday introduced legislation that would provide added protection for LGBT students in schools throughout the country.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), is known as the Student Non-Discrimination Act. The legislation would provide remedies for actual or perceived discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in both elementary and secondary schools.

Polis’ bill, H.R. 4530, is based on Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender in education programs or activities receiving federal funds. The new legislation has 60 original co-sponsors, according to a statement from Polis’ office.

“Every day innocent students fall victim to relentless harassment and discrimination from teachers, staff and fellow students based on their sexual orientation,” Polis said in the statement. “These actions not only hurt out students but, left unchecked, can also lead to life-threatening violence.”

Polis’ introduction of the legislation is consistent with his past work in public schools in his home state of Colorado. The lawmaker is a former chairman of the Colorado State Board of Education and has founded and served as the superintendent of charter schools serving at-risk student populations, according to a statement from his office.

ACLU has endorsed the bill. In a statement Wednesday, Christopher Anders, ACLU’s senior legislative counsel, called the legislation “long overdue.”

“Many LGBT students face harassment, discrimination and sometimes violence in our schools,” he said. “Our public schools should not be places of exclusion, but places where students feel safe and free from discrimination. The Student Non-Discrimination Act will go a long way toward protecting LGBT students and will help promote a better learning environment.”

Check back on DC Agenda’s website later for a more detailed look at the legislation. Download a copy of the Student Non-Discrimination Act here.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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