Casey introduces anti-bullying measure
by Jen Colletta
Aug 12, 2010 | 4111 views | 2 2 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
ROBERT CASEY PGN file photo
ROBERT CASEY PGN file photo
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U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania Robert Casey Jr. (D) introduced a bill last week that seeks to mandate federal regulations for school bullying, including banning harassment against LGBT youth.

Casey introduced the Safe Schools Improvement Act Aug. 5, along with 10 cosponsors.

The bill would require that any public schools that receive federal funding develop anti-bullying policies that specifically prohibit bullying motivated by certain characteristics, including sexual orientation and gender identity. The measure would also mandate that schools and districts have effective prevention strategies in place to combat classroom harassment and would compel states to compile data on incidence of bullying and report the statistics to the U.S. Department of Education.

Congresswoman Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) introduced the companion bill in the House last year.

Casey said the alarming statistics about school bullying motivated him to lead the fight for the bill in the Senate.

He noted that while students from any background can be subject to bullying, LGBT youth are particular targets, with the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network citing that nine out of 10 gay youth have reported classroom harassment.

“It’s bad enough if it was one or two out of 10, but a number that high is just disturbing,” he said. “I think people are sick and tired of reading about incidents after they’ve happened. For a student to be harassed to the point of suicide or where he can’t function or is subject to violence, it’s just wrong. And there are larger numbers of kids that we don’t hear about, those who skip school because they’re afraid.”

Casey asserted that the lack of a federal anti-bullying mandate exposes too many youth to dangerous circumstances, which he said can be quelled through his bill.

“In the end, it’s about one word: betrayal. Public officials say over and over again that they care about the kids and that they want to invest more dollars in schools, and I’m all for that, but all the dollars in the world can’t prevent a child from the horrific nightmare many face when they’re afraid to go to school,” he said. “I’ve never had that experience, I never was threatened or felt like someone was going to do me harm, so it’s hard for me to even fully appreciate or understand the horror so many kids go through every single day.”

Casey noted that enhanced accountability on the part of schools and administrators could go a long way to preventing such situations — but said the issue needs more widespread support.

“I think of it somewhat like drunk driving. There was a time in history where drunk driving was just accepted by society, but we’re to the point now where it’s not eliminated, but it’s become unacceptable,” he said. “I hope we can reach a point in the future where this kind of behavior will also be frowned upon and those that engage in it are held accountable.”

The Safe Schools Improvement Act has garnered support from the American School Health Association, the American Federation of Teachers, the American Association of School Administrators and the National Association of School Psychologists.

Casey acknowledged that the fact that the bill is LGBT-inclusive could sway some legislators away from supporting it, but he said the support he’s already seen is solid.

“It is possible, but we have a pretty good list of cosponsors right now,” he said. “We have people who are chair of committees and people from all across the country, so it is significant. But we do need a few Republicans to stand up and join our bill.”

Casey said the measure is a “priority” and, while he didn’t put a timeline on when movement could be expected, he was committed to pushing it forward as soon as he can and to looking for alternative routes to passage, like attaching it to a larger education measure.

Cosponsors of Casey’s bill include Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Roland Burris (D-Ill.).

Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter (D) had not signed on to the bill yet, and his office did not return a request for comment by press time.

The House version has 119 cosponsors, including Pennsylvania Reps. Bob Brady (D-1st Dist.), Christopher Carney (D-10th Dist.), Michael Doyle (D-14th Dist.) and Joe Sestak (D-7th Dist.).

Jen Colletta can be reached at jen@epgn.com.

Comments
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Jason Storm- PA
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August 25, 2010
Wow - morality clauses in contracts

Lets look at republican morality:

Not one repub signed on to trying to end bullyint that can result in suicide. of the 4 gay people I know well enough to know their younger life, 3 were almost suicides, and the other - his shocked mother told him to go commit suicide (fortunately all is love and happieness now)

Republican morality - Limbaugh - on his 4th wife - and why does he go to one of the poorest countries in the western world - the Dominican republic - because the people there have only one thing to sell - their childrens bodies, so I hear.

Gingrinch - on 3rd wife - How did he support his first, when she was in the hospital with cancer - by cheating. Similar re number 2

Minister ted haggard - ranted against what he did - , and he was paying a guy for the fun. gpt christian cured, and got caught again. And drove a gay kid to suicide - who if youre going to die, decided to take a couple other people along with him, when he shot up the church.

I could go on, but they are all BS at best, and really base their beliefs on nazi-ism. If you tell a life often enough and outrageous enough, it will be seen as the truth. (Goebbels - hitlers minister of propaganda, who got him elected. Finally did the world a favor by killing his whole family and himself 15 years too late, as the ruswsians were storming berlin,

And if you watch the repubs - you'll see that their god really is Paul Joseph Gobbels.
helene gosselin
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August 17, 2010
Finally! As a mother of 2 gay sons and a member of PFLAG(Parents and Friends of Lesbians And Gays), I am very aware of the pain endured by LGBT students at the hands of bullies in school. In small towns in Pennsylvnia, teachers and counselors bound by morality clauses in their contracts are afraid to intervene for fear of loosing their jobs if they are perceived as condoning homosexuality in school. There is a real need for anti-bullying programs specifically geared to prevent harassment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Thank you Senator Casey!