April 10, 2014 | by Michael K. Lavers
Congress urged to pass anti-bullying bill

Linda Sánchez, Democratic Party, gay news, Washington Blade, California

U.S. Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.) (Photo public domain).

Four members of Congress joined LGBT students and advocates outside the U.S. Capitol on Thursday who called for the passage of a bill that would require schools to implement anti-bullying policies that include sexual orientation and gender identity.

U.S. Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.) described the Safe Schools Improvement Act she introduced last month as a “common sense piece of legislation.” The measure – which has 193 co-sponsors on both sides of the aisle – needs only 25 more co-sponsors to ensure passage if House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) allows it to come up for a vote.

Sánchez told the Washington Blade after the press conference she has not “recently” spoken with Boehner or his office about scheduling a potential vote for the Safe Schools Improvement Act. The California Democrat said having more than 200 co-sponsors for the measure she first introduced it in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2006 “tees it up for that conversation with the speaker’s office.”

“As awareness about the issue grows, as members are personally affected or see constituents personally affected, I think they see the value in supporting this piece of legislation,” Sánchez told the Blade.

California Congressman Mike Honda – who founded the Congressional Anti-Bullying Caucus – discussed how his classmates subjected him to racial insults once he returned to the Golden State after living in a Japanese American internment camp during World War II.

“Our parents send our kids to school to be safe, not to be harassed,” said Honda.

Christin Manus of Dacula, Ga., said her classmates called her a “dyke” and other anti-gay slurs after she was outed during her freshman year of high school. She noted a group of girls told her they were going to “beat her straight.”

The suburban Atlanta teenager said during the press conference her parents did not accept her sexual orientation. Manus added she thought her teachers would have been disappointed at her because she was a lesbian if she told them about the bullying she was experiencing.

“If the Safe Schools Improvement Act were law, I would have had the protection I needed to feel safe in school,” she said. “With the passage of the Safe Schools Improvement Act, students like us will no longer have to suffer in silence.”

Honda noted during the press conference that 13 million students experience some form of bullying each year in the U.S. California Congressman Mark Takano referenced a Department of Education study that shows bullying affects 80 percent of LGBT students.

“We are just 25 votes away from doing something about it,” said the gay Democrat.

The press conference took place a day before the annual Day of Silence the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network organizes.

Michael K. Lavers has been a staff writer for the Washington Blade since May 2012. The passage of Maryland's same-sex marriage law, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the burgeoning LGBT rights movement in Latin America and the consecration of gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson are among the many stories he has covered since his career began in 2002. Follow Michael

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