Do what Al Franken says: Help make schools safer for LGBTQ students

Here’s a politician who’s actually helping to make it better. Feministing favorite and my own Senator Al Franken released a new video urging folks to contact their representatives in support of the Student Non-Discrimination Act. The bill, which was introduced by Franken and Rep. Jared Polis last March, “would ban discrimination and harassment in public schools based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and require schools to protect LGBT students when they are threatened.”

Justin Aaberg was a rising high school sophomore in Minnesota. Justin played the cello, in fact, he wrote music for the cello. His mother told people he was a sweet boy who seemed always to have a smile on his face. Justin came out to his mother when he was thirteen. On July 9th, 2010, Justin hanged himself in his bedroom. His mother later learned from Justin’s friends and from messages that he left before he died that he was the victim of constant anti-gay bullying. Justin was fifteen years old.

Justin’s story is not an anomaly. Justin was a victim in a wave of bullying against kids who are or are thought to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. Nine out of ten LGBT kids are harassed or bullied in school. A third skipped school in the past month because they felt unsafe. And study after study has shown that LGBT kids are much more likely than their peers to attempt suicide. This is a tragedy, and it’s happening right now.

But the sad truth is that our federal laws fail kids like Justin. Federal laws say you can’t discriminate against kids because of their race, sex, religion or what country they’re from. But our laws say nothing about sexual orientation or gender identity. Our federal laws do not protect these kids.

LGBT kids are learning that it gets better after high school, and it does. But they shouldn’t have to wait. I have a bill that can help make it better for these kids right now. My bill, the Student Non-Discrimination Act, will make it better for kids by banning discrimination and harassment in public schools based on sexual orientation and gender identity. My bill will make it better by forcing schools around the country to protect kids like Justin. And my bill will make it better so that when parents call their child’s school and say, “My child isn’t safe,” that school will listen.

I’m doing every single thing I can to get this bill passed. More than one third of the Senate supports this bill. But we need your help, because this bill can only pass if we get more support. So if you’re watching this video, I’m asking you for your help. I’m asking you to take two minutes of your day today to call your Senator and ask him or her to co-sponsor the Student Non-Discrimination Act. Just call the Capitol Switchboard and ask to be connected to your Senator. And then I’m asking you to get two of your friends to call too. And call again next week, and the week after that, until the bill passes. That’s it. It’ll make a huge difference.

We can make it better for LGBT kids in schools right now. It’s going to be tough, but together we can do it. Thank you for your help.

Do what Al says: Call your Senator today at 202-224-3121.

St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like,, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

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