Al Franken aims to outlaw bullying of GLBT students in school

It ought to be illegal to bully a school student based on sexuality. That's the the gist of legislation introduced today by Sen. Al Franken.

"Our nation's civil rights laws protect our children from bullying due to race, sex, religion, disability, and national origin," he said in a statement. "My proposal corrects a glaring injustice and extends these protections to our gay and lesbian students who need them just as badly."

The bill is a companion to the Student Nondiscrimination Act of 2010 in the House, H.R. 4530, introduced in January by Democratic Rep. Jared Polis, of Colorado.

Franken told MPR this morning he's still working on the definition of discrimination.

"I think that harassment and bullying is one of these things where you know when you see it," he told Cathy Wurzer. "I don't believe we have language in it to define bullying, but maybe I do. I'm not sure about that aspect of the bill."

Full text of the House version can be found here.

"Our public schools should be a safe harbor for our students, not a place of exclusion and ridicule," said the ACLU's Laura W. Murphy, whose organization supports the bill. "The Student Non-Discrimination Act will go a long way toward protecting our students and will promote both equality in schools and a safer learning environment."

Minnesota's senior senator, Amy Klobuchar, is not among the couple of dozen of her colleagues who have signed on as co-sponsors of the legislation. The Family Equality Council, a national gay rights group, said it hopes she does so, and soon.

MinnIndy's Andy Birkey points out that Franken's been working towards this bill for a while.

In April, during hearings on a different education bill, he pointed out that, "we have laws that prohibit bullying based on pretty much everything, but not on gender identity and gay and lesbian kids. And the evidence is that gay kids are bullied a lot and that their achievement goes down. There's a lot of absenteeism and even suicide."

Here's that exchange:

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