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All Students Deserve a Safe Learning Environment

All students in the United States deserve access to not only a quality education, but also one that takes place in an environment that is safe and respects their basic human dignity.

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All students in the United States deserve access to not only a quality education, but also one that takes place in an environment that is safe and respects their basic human dignity. Unfortunately, many of our nation’s students are subject to harassment, bullying, and violence in the school system. Youth who are (or are perceived to be) lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, or LGBT, are especially at risk for this type of abuse. A spate of high-profile cases over the past year has helped our nation become more aware of the problem of anti-LGBT bullying, as well as its magnitude and impact on students, their families, schools, and our society.

Many states have taken legislative and regulatory steps to foster safe environments for LGBT youth in schools, albeit to varying degrees of coverage and enforcement. Federal legislation that applies to all schools and covers all youth would provide the most comprehensive level of protection, and Congress should immediately move to enact such laws. As discussed later, three different LGBT-inclusive antibullying bills have been introduced in the current session of Congress.

Short of legislation, the federal government also has the authority through existing civil rights laws to intervene when schools are not adequately protecting their students. The Obama administration recently used this authority to require several school districts to protect LGBT students from discriminatory and dangerous harassment and bullying. As Congress debates the three antibullying bills that have been introduced, the Obama administration should continue to use its authority to enforce existing laws, thereby helping to create safe learning environments for all students.

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