Krishnamoorthi proposes legislation to help combat bullying in schools
Bullying and harassment in schools isn't a new concern, but it affects minority populations more acutely, says U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi who introduced legislation Monday calling for creation of state anti-bullying task forces to combat the problem.
"It is so pervasive and it's just endangering our youth," said Krishnamoorthi, a Schaumburg Democrat who experienced bullying growing up, as have his children.
"It's become a safety issue for children of all ages, but especially for people in minority communities and LGBTQ communities."
Already, 13 states and the District of Columbia have convened task forces to evaluate, research and gather community feedback on how to make schools safer, he said.
If signed into law, the State Taskforce Opportunity Program (STOP) Bullying Act would allow states to establish task forces to study, address and reduce the problem in primary and secondary schools. The measure specifically addresses bullying of LGBTQ students and is endorsed by the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN).
According to GLSEN's 2017 National School Climate Survey, nearly 87% of LGBTQ students experienced harassment or assault based on personal characteristics -- gender expression, religion, race, ethnicity and disability -- and 70% due to their sexual orientation. The survey shows more than a third of LGBTQ students missed at least a day of school in the past month and two of five LGBTQ students avoided bathrooms or locker rooms because they felt unsafe or uncomfortable.
Bullied LGBTQ students also have lower grade-point averages, lower self-esteem, higher rates of depression and are nearly twice as likely not to pursue secondary education, Krishnamoorthi said.
"This is a serious problem," he said. "Especially in the Trump era, when you have a president who encourages rhetoric and behavior that appears to be tolerant of belittling people, bullying people, it ends up translating to youth to emulate that example. Youth feel more targeted based on the peculiar characteristics that might make them stand out whether they are Latino, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh or LGBTQ."
The legislation would establish a federal grant program administered through the Department of Education to fund state anti-bullying task forces.
The task force could comprise educators, school administrators, guidance counselors, child psychologists, parents, students and community leaders. It must submit a final report with its findings, legislative recommendations, and best practices to reduce bullying and educate parents and school employees.