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Recent teen suicides make strong case for Minnesota Safe Schools Bill

WASHINGTON – Over the course of just the past few weeks, four teenagers have committed suicide as a result of bullying and/or harassment in school settings across the country. These tragic deaths are in addition to the five suicides, including three by gay teens, experienced by Minnesota’s Anoka-Hennepin School District in the past year.

The deaths have brought a renewed sense of urgency for the passage of the Minnesota “Safe Schools for All” bill when a new legislature convenes next year. Data collected from a multitude of studies over the years has shown conclusively that high school students who are bullied because of their sexual orientation or gender identity are at much higher risk for suicide.

In spite of these well-established facts, Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican with presidential aspirations, vetoed the bill in 2009. When enacted into law, the bill will help prevent the kind of bullying that caused these kids to take their lives. Mark Dayton supports the bill; Tom Emmer does not.

“If you believe that all Minnesota children deserve to be safe and welcomed at schools, then the choice on election day is clear: Mark Dayton,” said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC).

“All kids deserve to be treated with respect. The fact that kids are committing suicide as a result of bullying is unacceptable. We have a responsibility to do right by these kids. Tom Emmer is not living up to that responsibility.”

HRC also reiterated its strong support for passage of the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA, S. 3390) introduced by Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn.

The bill prohibits any school program or activity receiving federal financial assistance from discriminating or ignoring harassing behavior against any public school student on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Schools would have a responsibility to ensure that proactive steps are being taken in order to prevent discrimination, including bullying and harassment, against students based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.