The prevalence of bullying and harassment in elementary, middle, and high schools is an issue of national concern and we need your help to put a stop to it. According to recent studies, bullying affects around 20% of American children every year and results in serious academic, physical and mental health problems including, in some cases, suicide. For LGBTQ students, whose harassment is often disguised as the expression of religious views, those numbers are far higher, with 74.1% reporting being bullied for their sexual orientation and 55.2% being victimized for their gender identity or expression. For students of minority religions, incidences are similarly high, with 55% of Muslim students reporting being bullied for their religion or perceptions of it, as well as 50% of Sikhs, among other targeted groups.

While every state has now passed some form of anti-bullying legislation, many have yet to devote adequate attention and resources to helping school districts develop actual plans and programs to deal with this harassment. In many cases school policies on bullying are not spelled out, resulting in existing policies going unenforced, school officials unsure of what they can do, and children continuing to be bullied.

Bipartisan legislation should pass the Safe Schools Improvement Act to amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to require schools and districts that receive federal funding to adopt policies that explicitly prohibit and define bullying and harassment and that enumerate some of the categories for protection, including religion, race, color, sex, nation of origin, disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity. States would collect and report data on bullying and harassment to the Department of Education as well as create ways to address these problems. Additionally, the Department of Education would be required to, in turn, provide Congress with a report on this data every two years. Congress and state governments must also look into the rising threat of cyber bullying, as today’s harassment often extends beyond the schoolhouse.