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Higher Education Anti-harassment Act reintroduced in U.S. Senate

Higher Education Anti-harassment Act reintroduced in U.S. Senate

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) on Thursday reintroduced legislation that would require colleges and universities receiving federal student aid funding to enact an anti-harassment policy.

Courtesy: VKristopher Sharp (left) with U.S. Sen. Patty Murray.
Courtesy: Kathryn Robertson
Kristopher Sharp (left) with U.S. Sen. Patty Murray.

The Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act of 2014 would mandate policies that prohibit harassment of students by their peers, faculty and staff based on actual or perceived race, color, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or religion, and require colleges to distribute their anti-harassment policy to all students and employees.

The bill, which also prohibits cyber-bullying, would create a grant program at the Department of Education in which institutions could apply for funding to initiate, expand or improve programs to comply with its requirements.

The legislation was first introduced by the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg after Tyler Clementi, a gay freshman at Rutgers University who committed suicide in 2010 after his roommate placed a camera in their dorm room and streamed images onto the internet of Clementi’s intimate same-sex encounter.

Murray introduced the measure on the Senate floor Thursday morning, and shared the story of her intern, Kristopher Sharp, who had been targeted for harassment during a student government election campaign because he is HIV-positive.

“Despite statistics telling us LGBT students are nearly twice as likely to be harassed, there is no federal requirement that colleges and universities have policies in place to protect their students,” said Murray. “Kris told me, ‘For most young people, when things like that happen we have got to have people who are going to be proactive in helping them. And not someone telling them there’s nothing we can do to help you.”

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James Clementi, whose brother Tyler the measure is named for, told LGBTQ Nation Thursday he hopes the measure “will ensure a safe place for learning for college students across the U.S. in the name of diversity and inclusion.”

According to a 2004 study by Rowan University, 27 percent of college students indicated they had seen students being bullied by other students. LGBT students are nearly twice as likely as their peers to experience harassment, and are far more likely to indicate the harassment was based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Sharp added that he is honored by Murray’s commitment to ensure colleges and universities are safe for all students, especially LGBT students like himself.

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