Metro Weekly

Obama Talks Education Bill With Senators, Anti-Bullying Measures Not Discussed

Today, President Barack Obama had a meeting to discuss the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act with a bipartisan group of Senate leaders on the topic. Although the White House reports that the meeting with the leaders was “productive,” there was no discussion of either of the bills introduced in the 111th Congress that were aimed at reducing anti-LGBT bullying.

obama_febpresser.jpgThe Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA) and Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA) never received the specific endorsement of the administration in the 111th Congress, although White House and Education Department officials repeatedly expressed support for the aims of the bills. 

The SNDA, modeled after Title IX, would have added sexual orientation and gender identity federal education nondiscrimination law. The SSIA, meanwhile, would have amended the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act to include bullying and harassment prevention programs, including ones based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The White House reports only that “the President discussed his desire to find common ground on the need to re-define the federal role in education, so that it is more flexible and better focused on responsibility, reform, and results.”

The meeting — held with Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) — was supposed to have been held with both Senate and House leaders, but a House vote led the House members to return to the Hill and miss the meeting.

Although the issue of anti-LGBT bullying and the two bills aimed at addressing it did not come up during the meeting, White House spokesman Shin Inouye responded to a question from Metro Weekly in an email, writing, “The President continues to believe that all students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, should be able to learn in a safe and secure environment.”

Inouye did not respond to a portion of the question asking whether inclusion of the SSIA or SNDA’s aims in the ESEA reauthorization was a priority for the White House.

In October 2010, however, Inouye told Metro Weekly, “Next year when the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is being considered, we look forward to working with Congress to ensure that all students are safe and healthy and can learn in environments free from discrimination, harassment, and intimidation; that students have access to adults who engage them and care about their success, and to supports that promote their learning and well-being.”

[Photo: President Obama answers reporters questions about his budget proposal on Feb. 15. (Photo by Chris Geidner.)]

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