May 15, 2019 at 5:33 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
Tyler Clementi Act reintroduced to prohibit anti-LGBT bullying
From left, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) (Photo of Murray by Senate Democrats via Flickr; Washington Blade photos of Baldwin and Pocan by Michael Key)

With the goal of seeking to draw attention to anti-LGBT bullying at colleges and universities, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) reintroduced legislation Wednesday seeking to require higher education facilities to adopt policies against harassment.

The legislation, called the Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act, which is named for a gay college student who died by suicide in 2010 by throwing himself from the George Washington Bridge after he experienced cyberbullying during his first semester at Rutgers University. 

“No student should have to put their wellbeing, their safety, or their life in jeopardy just to access an education, but sadly we’re seeing students around the country take drastic measures because of bullying and harassment,” Murray said in a statement.

The legislation has 21 co-sponsors in the Senate, including lesbian Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), and 47 co-sponsors in the House.

“No student should have to live in fear of being who they are,” Baldwin said. “Our schools should not be, and cannot be, places of discrimination, harassment, bullying, intimidation or violence.”

Pocan said in a statement the legislation is especially needed in the aftermath of the Trump administration withdrawing protections for transgender students.  

“No student should be harassed or cyberbullied for who they are, or who they love,” Pocan said in a statement. “Bullying is a real and persistent danger for many LGBTQ students at our colleges and universities, but there is no federal legislation that specifically protects students from being targeted based on sexual orientation or gender identity. 

According to statement from Pocan’s office, 1 in 5 college students are victims of cyberbullying and LGBT students are nearly twice as likely to experience harassment as their peers.

The legislation seeks to prohibit anti-LGBT bullying by requiring colleges receiving federal aid to establish policies prohibiting harassment based on actual or perceived race, color, national origin, sex (including sexual orientation, gender identity, pregnancy, childbirth and sex stereotypes), disability or religion.

The bill requires these schools to include their anti-harassment policy in a mandated security reported distributed to all students and employees annually and to all prospective students upon request. The legislation also recognizes “cyberbullying,” which is defined as harassment “undertaken through electronic messaging services, commercial mobile services, electronic communications and other technology.”

Further, the legislation authorizes a competitive grant program for institutions of higher education to foster programs to prevent student harassment; provide counseling to students who have been harassed or accused of subjecting other students to harassment.

Jane Clementi, the mother of Tyler Clementi and CEO of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, said in a statement she welcomed the reintroduced of the legislation.

“We believe all institutions of higher education should have policies to keep all their students safe,” Jane Clementi said. “Because every student deserves a positive educational experience in a safe environment free of harassment, bullying or humiliation, where they can learn, study and thrive regardless of their race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or whatever else makes them special and precious; and every parent should have peace of mind that their children will be protected and free of harm while in the schools care.”

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

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