PHILADELPHIA — Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) announced on Saturday plans to introduce federal anti-bullying legislation “in the next couple of days” that would be inclusive of protecting LGBT students throughout the country.
Unveiling his plans during a speech at the International Equality Dinner at the annual Equality Forum, Casey said the legislation, which will be known as the Safe Schools Improvement Act, is necessary because data shows that bullying happens “most frequently to children who happen to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.”
“We must enact legislation to do a better job of protecting children, especially those children who are being bullied everyday because they’re gay or lesbian,” he said.
Casey said the legislation will call on schools to develop policies to prohibit bullying and harassment and create a system to obtain and report data on the issue.
Companion legislation to what Casey introduces in the Senate already exists in the House. The sponsor of the House version, which has 108 co-sponsors, is Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.).
Following his speech, Casey told the Blade his legislation would be different from the Student Non-Discrimination Act that Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) is poised to introduce in the Senate.
Casey said he thinks it’s important for the federal government to make clear that it’s going to pay more attention to the issue of bullying.
“As you know, it’s been a significant issue as it relates to gay and lesbian, bisexual and transgender children for a long time — or children who happen to have parents who are gay or lesbian,” he said.
Casey said the legislation wouldn’t necessarily have language specifically relating to sexual orientation or gender identity but would have more of a “broader directive” toward all students.
Although he said he thinks it’s possible for anti-bullying legislation to pass this year, Casey said he’s “learned to be more realistic about how long bills can take.”
Casey said he’s considering attaching the legislation as part of another moving vehicle, and cited as a possibility upcoming education budget legislation known as the Elementary & Secondary Education Act.
A co-sponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, Casey said he wouldn’t rule out the possibility of the bill passing this year.
Casey said the Senate, Health, Education Labor & Pensions Committee is considering attaching ENDA to the upcoming Workforce Investment Act because of “a linkage in subject matter.”
“We’ve had to be learn to be creative, because, as you know, Republicans have put in the Senate these 60-vote thresholds to block things, and so in light of that, you have to be determined and creative to get something passed,” Casey said.