Georgia senators help defeat LGBT student protection amendment
Vote comes as GLSEN releases report on anti-bullying policies
By PATRICK SAUNDERS
Seven Republicans crossed the aisle to vote in favor of the Student Nondiscrimination Act (SNDA), but Georgia’s senators stayed put as the amendment to an education bill fell eight votes short of the 60-vote threshold required for passage.
The failure of the amendment, which would have provided nondiscrimination and anti-bullying protections for LGBT children in schools, comes just as an LGBT education organization releases a report on the lack of protections for LGBT students across the country.
The Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) released “From Statehouse to Schoolhouse: Anti-Bullying Policy Efforts in U.S. States and School Districts” on July 15, one day after SNDA failed in the U.S. Senate. Johnny Isakson voted against the Student Nondiscrimination Act on July 14. (Official photos)
The report showed that nearly three in 10 (29.5 percent) U.S. school districts do not have an anti-bullying policy. And of the 70.5 percent of U.S. school districts with anti-bullying policies:
• Fewer than half (42.6 percent) enumerate protections for students based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation.
• A minority (14.1 percent) enumerates protections for students based on their gender identity and/or gender expression.
• About a quarter (26.8 percent) requires professional development for staff to address bullying and harassment in their schools.
• Fewer than one-third (30.3 percent) stipulate accountability for incidents of bullying and harassment to the district and/or state.
• Only 3 percent of district policies include all three elements—LGBT enumeration, professional development requirements, and accountability stipulations.
The report also found that 75 percent of Georgia school districts have anti-bullying policies, but only 1.7 percent have policies enumerating LGBT protections. The national average was 9.9 percent with LGBT protections.
“The critical point is that without federal protections, states like Georgia that are unlikely in the near future to pass state-level protections will be forced to fight battles for LGBTQ student rights at a slower, district-by-district pace,” says Emily Brown, field organizer at Georgia Equality. “This will negatively affect those students in small, rural districts that may have small numbers of LGBTQ students and who lack access to gaystraight alliances, LGBTQ community centers or other affirming community resources.”
Georgia Equality will continue to work with school districts across the state to enact anti-bullying policies that enumerate sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes, as well as partner with the Georgia Safe Schools Coalition and GLSEN in their efforts.
“These programs will always be necessary, but without federal or state policies or laws that protect LGBTQ students, they are mere stop-gap measures,” Brown says.
The offices of Sen. Johnny Isakson and Sen. David Perdue did not respond to a request for comment about their votes on SNDA.